A rally calling for the liberation of democracy activists arrested during Pope Francis’ visit to the island resulted in more than 300 Cuban freedom fighters arrested this weekend and the destruction and vandalism of multiple offices of the anti-communist Cuban Patriotic Union.
The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) organized a series of rallies on Sunday titled #todosmarchamos (“We all March”) in support of members of their organization that had been arrested for assembling peacefully and calling for freedom of expression in Cuba. Supporters on Twitter used the hashtag to distribute photos of the rallies and notices regarding the attacks on democracy activists.
— Cubanet (@CubanetNoticias) October 11, 2015
— Liú Santiesteban (@Liusantiesteban) October 4, 2015
— Angel Juan Moya (@jangelmoya) September 29, 2015
As Babalú Blog notes, the organization announced the rally online several days in advance, allowing communist Cuban authorities to prepare to detain those participating. The rally would call specifically for the liberation of activists arrested during Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba in September, including Zaqueo Báez, who was seen being dragged away by police on video in front of Pope Francis’ convoy in Havana. Báez is currently undergoing a hunger strike in prison, demanding to be either charged with a crime or released.
— Osmara Borroto (@BorrotoOsmara) October 4, 2015
Pope Francis denied having any “news” regarding detentions in Cuba on his flight out of the island towards the United States.
UNPACU issued a press release following the attacks on Sunday with a list of the 300 people arrested across the island, from Havana to eastern Santiago, for marching peacefully. While most were UNPACU members, many others were women involved in the Ladies in White group, an organization of women whose relatives are behind bars as prisoners of conscience. The whereabouts of many of those arrested remains unknown. In addition to those arrested, a number of members of the organization were not detained but, instead, beaten in public by gangs of Castro-hired thugs. Yriade Hernández, an UNPACU member, suffered a particularly vicious attack by Cuban special forces:
— Yriade Hernandez (@yriadeunpacu) October 11, 2015
UNPACU reports that, in addition to those beaten, at least one woman was pelted with rotten eggs for publicly expressing disapproval of the Castro regime, and two UNPACU offices were raided and vandalized. In Santiago, state police stole “flags, shields, batteries, cables, documents, and hundreds of printer sheets, DVDs, and 300 Cuban convertible pesos.”
The Cuban government still detains an unknown, but believed to be large, number of political prisoners. This number has dwindled significantly following a change of policy: rather than arresting dissidents and keeping them permanently behind bars, they are detained regularly, usually on a weekly basis, following any evidence of counterrevolutionary behavior. The most prominent exception to this policy is the Cuban artist “El Sexto,” who remains behind bars since December after being caught transporting two pigs with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl” emblazoned on their backs.