An unidentified mob attacked two members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) – a pregnant teen and her activist father – on Sunday night, hurling bottles at them and reportedly punching the woman in the belly.
The activists in question are 52-year-old Ángel López Figueroa and his 18-year-old daughter Ariadna López Sotolongo, who is six months pregnant. According to Sotolongo’s father-in-law, who spoke to the Miami-based Martí Noticias, a mob formed outside the family home in Havana on Sunday night and began attempting to break into the house.
“They began throwing bottles at the house, that is when they hurt the father. They tried to open the front door, managed to pry it open and attack Ángel,” according to Roberto Pérez Rodríguez. Sotolongo, meanwhile, “received blows to the belly” and injured her hand trying to fight off the mob. Her 13-year-old sister also received unspecified injuries, according to Pérez.
Images UNPACU has circulated on social media of Figueroa after the attack indicate that he sustained grave injuries to the head and may be suffering a concussion.
Journalist Liu Santiesteban writes on Facebook that Figueroa was “left for almost dead” following the incident and Sotolongo “barely showed vital signs” upon arriving at the hospital and “almost lost the fetus.”
Pérez told Martí that his family struggled to convince their local clinic to take in the dissidents. “The doctor said things were not that way, that he had to [receive care] at the hospital… that the ultrasound had problems,” he explained. “Yesterday we had problems, today they told me the woman who had to work here didn’t come in today. That is how things are with us dissidents.”
The Cuban government often recruits civilian members of the Communist Party – not police – to commit “actos de repudio,” or “acts of repudiation,” against dissident headquarters. These acts typically involve mob attacks on unarmed dissidents in which they are pelted with garbage, physically attacked, tarred, and insulted with vulgar epithets.
Given its size and its presence throughout the island, UNPACU is one of the primary targets of the Cuban government’s repression efforts against the pro-democracy opposition, along with the Ladies in White and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) dissident groups. UNPACU is believed to have more prisoners of conscience among their members than any other dissident group.
UNPACU suffered a violent attack on its headquarters in Santiago, on the eastern end of the island, in early March, in which UNPACU leader José Daniel Ferrer was arrested and “disappeared” to an undisclosed location. This attack, unlike typical actos de repudio, was executed by Cuban National Revolutionary Police (PNR). When Ferrer resurfaced, he described the holding cell police placed him in as akin to a “horror movie for how much blood there was on the walls, of prisoners who were beaten and the mosquitos killed by prisoners.”
During that raid, police confiscated over one thousand pounds of food goods – including rice, sugar, vegetables, and meat, all difficult to procure for the average Cuban.
Ferrer nonetheless told local media that “the majority of our activists are in high spirits, this type of attack does not discourage them.”
This month, UNPACU lost prisoner of conscience Hamell Santiago Maz Hernández while imprisoned without due process; Maz was facing charges of “disrespect,” a catch-all crime the Cuban police use to imprison anti-communist dissidents. UNPACU members told media they did not believe the official story of his demise, “cardiac arrest,” and would continue investigating the incident.
Violence against anti-communist dissidents has skyrocketed since President Barack Obama visited Cuba a year ago, attending a baseball game with Raúl Castro and standing silently beside him as he denied the existence of political prisoners on the island. In addition to emboldening the Castro regime by promoting business ties with the dictatorship, President Obama repealed the longstanding refugee policy known as “wet foot/dry foot,” eliminating the little hope Cubans had of escaping the island, albeit through the dangerous Florida strait. The last-minute policy change has stranded hundreds of known Cuban nationals throughout Mexico, Central, and South America.
“We Cubans gave him our heart and he betrayed us,” Luis Pedroso, a Cuban stranded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, told the Cuban independent outlet 14 y Medio. “I lost my life.”