EspañolThe Cuban government marked International Human Rights Day on Wednesday, December 10, in a unique way: by arresting over 120 political dissidents from across the island. The arrests included 67 members of the organization Ladies in White, comprised of the spouses of political prisoners. Also among those detained were two journalists from the independent media outlet 14yMedio.
José Daniel Ferrer, executive secretary of civil liberties group the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), also reported police attacks on several members of his organization. Ferrer, himself a former political prisoner, said that special forces had targeted several activists, including Juan Salgado Jurado, coordinator of the UNPACU chapter in the eastern city of Manzanillos.
In response, activists gathered as early as 11 a.m. local time on the same day at the corner of 23 and L Street in the middle of Havana. Berta Soler, a representative of the Ladies in White, led demonstrators in protests against the Cuban government.
Cuban security forces blocked access to protest sites in Las Tunas and Holguin, including the UNPACU headquarters in the Altamira neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba, preventing several activists from engaging in the demonstrations.
Dissident blogger and journalist Yoani Sánchez announced through social media that police had arrested two of her reporters for the digital media outlet 14yMedia. “[Police say] they have done something illegal,” Sánchez reported, “but all they’ve done is journalism!”
According to Martha Beatriz Roque, a female police officer from Unit 111 used her pistol to beat Lady in White activist Adis Niria Dallet Urgelles. Regarding the protests, Beatriz told Martí Noticias that “the Cuban people are angry.… I can tell you there are a lot of people who believe in the freedom to speak their mind and say it anywhere.”
Ferrer relayed other incidents of police misconduct and claimed that a lieutenant colonel told Jurado, once he was detained, that he would have the option of either leaving the country or “make a lot of money” if he helped poison dissident activists Martín Ovidio and Ferrer.
In an interview with the PanAm Post, Lady in White Yohanna de la Cruz, who was present during the protests in Havana, confirmed police detained her two fellow activists until 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday. “In Cuba, they arrest you just for thinking differently,” she explained.
According 14yMedio, police still have dozens of activists from across the island in custody.
Cuba Celebrates Human Rights?
Castro regime apologists also held gatherings on Human Rights Day, and could be seen at the popular Coppelia ice cream parlor, shouting, “Long live Fidel, long live Raúl Castro!”
The state newspaper Granma wrote on Thursday that Cubans have every reason to celebrate human rights on the island, claiming the country sets an “example in its protection of children.” The newspaper also praised the island’s access to information and communication technology as public services.
“Plazas and parks around the country have hosted various activities that mark days of reflection and debate in university centers,” Granma wrote of Human Rights Day in Cuba, without a word on the protests and arrests by police.
Karel Becerra, International Relations secretary of Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), noted the Cuban government’s apparent hypocrisy: “The unquestionable right of a human being is his life and his right to speak. Whoever violates these basic rights is executing a charade to conceal their true nature,” said Becerra, currently in exile in Argentina.
“A government that puts people to death by firing squad for speaking out or ‘endangering’ the government’s authority has no moral standing to speak of human rights,” the activist told the PanAm Post.
Calls for Freedom from Florida
“[We want the government] to stop exploiting Cubans, and for the world to know that the Cuban nation is divided by the Castro brothers,” said Raúl Saul Sánchez, president of the movement.
Event organizers said the purpose of the gathering was to “raise awareness of the destruction of our families, and for the human rights of all Cubans and our brothers of other nationalities who suffer oppression and division.”