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UPDATED: Eighteen Activists Arrested in Santiago de Cuba
By Cuban Democratic Directorate

Santiago de Cuba. Eighteen human rights activists protesting the unjust imprisonment of Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Eliécer Consuegra Rivas y Gerardo Sánchez Ortega were arrested and taken to the “Versailles” State Security headquarters in Santiago de Cuba.


According to a statement by activist Mirta Echevarría, Gerardo Sánchez Ortega’s stepdaughter, jineteen activists were conducting a fast at her house when two State Security agents arrived to interrogate Jacqueline Echevarría, Gerardo Sánchez Ortega’s wife, who explained her intention to go to Santa Tereseita del Niño Jesús church to pray for her husband, which she understood to be her right and her duty.


The activists marched from the Santiago de Cuba Catedral to the Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús church dressed in black and bearing signs reading “I DO NOT COOPERATE WITH THE DICTATORSHIP”. As the procession for the Mass, which was to be celebrated with intentions for the freedom of the three detained youths and all Cuban political prisoners, began, a detachment of State Security officers surrounded the group of opposition activsts and beat them, including the women, as well as insulting a priest who went to defend them, José Conrado Rodríguez.


“They fell upon the church door with kicks, forced it open, entered the church and while inside used tear gas against us, including my disabled son and all the women present. They fell upon all of us with blows and nearly strangled some women to put them in patrol cars and take them away,” explained Jacqueline Echeverría to the Cuban Democratic Directorate.


According to her statement, the officers undressed the women with the intention of conducting cavity searches. The officers threatened Jacqueline and the priest, saying that they would “put an end to them and to the church,” which caused members of the community who witnessed the events to express solidarity with the opposition activists, protesting that innocent people were being abused.


“We are not going to stop here. This position will not change because we are one people with one voice and one thought: freedom for Cuba,” stated Jacqueline.


As of this writing, the only activist freed has been Tatiana López Blanco, since she is the mother of a newborn baby. The rest of the activists remain imprisoned at the “Versailles” State Security headquarters.


This act of repression comes in the wake of other arrests within the space of a week in different parts of the country. Some human rights activists consider these events a new crackdown against the Cuban civic resistance movement.


Given by the Cuban Democratic Directorate on 5 December, 2007.



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