Antilla, in eastern Cuba, is the hometown of my father and others in my family. So I was intrigued this week when my cousin e-mailed several photographs she had received from relatives on the island. I have never been there but in viewing the photos, there's no denying that part of me remains there.
Eastern Cuba has historically been a hot spot for rebellion against the dictators that have ruled Cuba for too long. Whether the dictator be named Castro or Batista or the King of Spain, the people of Oriente have not submitted without a fight.
And that includes the people of Antilla, where many continue in the struggle for freedom.
Earlier this week, Pedazos de la Isla reported on a recent police crackdown in Antilla, and how the public reacted in support of those arrested. I use this blog to the best of my abilities to draw attention to any resistance to the Castro dictatorship wherever it occurs. But when it happens in Antilla, it deserves more from me.
Because Antilla is my hometown, too.
Opposition leaders in Antilla arrested, diverse groups respond with solidarity
At around 3 PM on Wednesday, February 20th, leaders of different dissident groups were arrested by the State Police in the Eastern municipality of Antilla after a series of meetings.
The detainees were Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, general coordinator of theEastern Democratic Alliance, Yoandri Montoya, president of the Bayamo Youth Movement, and Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. After the arrests, all the dissidents were abandoned in different desolate locations throughout the province of Holguin.
Eriberto Liranza, from Havana, recounts that he was visiting the Eastern region of the country since February 14th and that he had been trying to dodge police vigilance and persecution since then.
“On the 15th, I evaded persecution in the city of Velasco, in the municipality of Gibara. I was with a couple of other activists and we managed to escape without being arrested until arriving to Antilla“, where he participated in the 9th Anniversary celebration of the Eastern Democratic Alliance along with another 50 activists.
He explains that after carrying out another commemorative activity in Antilla during morning hours of the 20th, a group of dissidents congregated outside the home ofLady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez and carried out a protest, shouting slogans like “Orlando Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“. Zapata was the political prisoner who, after tortures, mistreatment, and a lengthy hunger strike, died on February 23rd, 2010. He is considered a martyr and symbol of resistance by the internal Cuban opposition.
“It seems that this protest was too much for the regime. It bothered them very much that we were freely going out to the streets“, said Liranza.
It was at that moment that the arrests occurred.
“They arrested a group of us- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Yoandri Montoya, Delmides Fidalgo and me… they aggressively put the handcuffs on us, they put them on very tightly, hurting our hands and arms“, recounts the dissident,“then they shoved us into police vehicles, where there was a glass window dividing us from the drivers seat. It was extremely hot inside“. They were taken to the Pedernales Unit, a center notorious for its mistreatment and torture of recluses, both political and common ones.
After various minutes in Pedernales, where they were mistreated and threatened with further repression, each of the activists were abandoned in different desolate areas. Rodriguez Lobaina was left in the rural area of Holguin known as La Caballeriza, while Liranza was left on the outskirts of Holguin, afterward being forced to leave the province. The whereabouts of Yoandri Montoya were unknown for a while but it was later confirmed that he arrived to his city of residence, Bayamo.
Montoya has been denouncing the increase of violence on behalf of the regime against him and other activists from the Movement which he heads in Bayamo. On recent occasions, in declarations to this blog and other independent outlets, the young activist has said he has been detained numerous times and that the young members of the group live under the constant vigilance of State Security officials and collaborators. In this month of February, police agents threatened Yoandri with taking him to prison. The dissident explains that this repression is due to the group’s increasing opposition on the streets of Cuba, demanding freedom, as well as their work with the community- one of the most prominent projects being the foundation of numerous independent gyms which provide exercise services and equipment for young locals, free of charge.
That same Wednesday, during morning hours, other detentions of Eastern Democratic Alliance members were reported, as were the cases of Yubel Cansino Acosta, Miladis Piñales Rosa, Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir (in Banes) and Luis Noa Silva (in Baracoa), according to Twitter messages published by Rolando Rodriguz (@LobainaCuba). Noa Silva was summoned to a police unit on the following day, where he was threatened with years of prison if he chose to continue his activism.
The detentions of the leaders of these different pro-freedom groups unleashed a wave of solidarity among other members of the opposition in the Eastern region, such as other activists of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in the neighborhood of Los Negritos, in Banes, as well as other delegations of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy throughout Holguin.