The intolerance of a dictatorship leaves its marks on a child in Banes, Holguin
Gertrudis Ojeda and her daughter Bianca. Foto by: Martha Diaz Rondon
Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and her husbandYoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir are no strangers to what it means to be a dissident in Cuba. She is a member of the Ladies in White and both are members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, two groups which oppose the communist dictatorship. Because of this, they have been arbitrarily arrested by the political police, beat, deported, kept under vigilance and threatened with death. These are consequences which they have accepted in their struggle for freedom. But now, their three children are directly suffering from this State repression, especially their 6 year old daughter, Bianca Ricardo Ojeda.
The three children of the couple have first-handedly witnessed how police agents have raided their home in Banes, Holguin, physically assaulting their parents. They have also seen how mobs organized by State Security have surrounded their home and shouted obscene words and severe threats. They have all suffered the fear, but the young Bianca seems to be the most seriously psychologically affected.
On Saturday, August 17th 2013, Gerturids, Naoki, their children and other relatives were in the town of Guardalavaca when – during afternoon hours – they tried to board a bus back home to Banes. Upon seeing the extremely long lines at the terminal and after waiting several hours without transportation, the dissidents decided to carry out a public protest, demanding transportation for everyone who was waiting.
“Suddenly, agents of the National Revolutionary Police arrived and they brutally attacked me along with my brother Luis Manuel Garcia Mir“, recounts Yoandri, “they attacked us with sticks, shoving us, kicking us, and even launched pepper spray against us. They then detained my brother and I in a police vehicle and took us to the police unit of Banes, where they threw us into dark dungeons. We remained there until 10 AM of the next day“.
Also present was Janet Vergara, Gertrudis’ sister who is 6 months pregnant. “We were also mistreated…Janet was pushed and beat. Right now she has pains in her stomach“.
The 3 minors of Suarez and Ricardo witnessed all the violence.
“My little girl, Bianca, is sick in the nerves…she is very afraid. This has happened on various occasions but now she seems to be worse. We are considering taking her to receive psychiatric help, because she has too much trauma after seeing all these violent actions“, expressed Yoandri Naoki, notably worried.
“She saw everything…how they punched us, handcuffed us, kicked us, and how they sprayed us…everything“.
One of the agents who was most violent to the Holguin natives could not be identified by name but his badge number was 21771, according to Gertrudis and Yoandri.
Dissidents in Banes, Holguin. 6 year old Bianca Ricardo Ojeda is at the bottom left infront of her father Yoandri Ricardo. Photo by: Martha Diaz Rondon
After the arrests, Gertrudis traveled with her 3 children to the police unit, where she remained outside until very late at night as a form of protest, demanding the liberation of her relatives. She did not receive a single response from any official and had to eventually leave because of her children.
“These are the typical problems faced by dissidents in Cuba“, says Gertrudis, explaining that entire families are subjected to repressive measures, from the elders to the youngsters. ”My daughter is traumatized and I hold State Security accountable for what may happen to her“.
Ojeda Suarez managed to dodge police cordons on Sunday, August 18th, and arrived at Mass as part of her habitual march as a member of the Ladies in White, but she denounced that her home remained under very tight police vigilance. Agents – such as Freddy Aguero, among others – frequently knock on their door and let them know that they will be jailed if they step outside.
Despite the risks, Gertrudis and Yoandri continue to carry out vigils, debates and other encounters with members of the opposition in the Eastern city of Banes, as well as spontaneous protest marches which usually end in detentions.
Ojeda also said to feel extremely concerned for the fate of her pregnant sister.
“My sister Janet still has pains after the physical mistreatment at the hands of the police in Guardalavaca. These agents did not care that she was pregnant. We really do not know how this will end, if she will have to go to the hospital for some time or – hopefully not – she may even lose the child“.