By Confesor Verdecia Ellcok
HAVANA TIMES – Teresa Miranda Cespedes lives in Guaro, a town in the Mayari municipality, in the Holguin province. She is an open protester, activist and Christian, who has suffered repression along with the rest of her family. She is an example of how brave Cuban women are not only bearing the hardship of living in a country in crisis, but fighting for a better Cuba too.
HT: You have openly declared your political stance against the Cuban government, are you connected to any dissident organization?
TMC: Yes, I am a human rights advocate and I belong to the Movimiento Corriente Martiana, based in Havana and led by Moises Leonardo Rodriguez.
HT: How did your political activism as a dissident begin?
TMC: It all started with a very unfortunate event that took place in my family back in 2015. I lost a brother because of medical negligence and even though I complained via every established channel there is, I didn’t receive a response. I then understood that a cow is more valuable in this country than a human life. From that moment onwards, I came into contact with the opposition, became a dissident, and I haven’t stopped reporting any human rights violations I catch wind of.
HT: Have you suffered repression as a result?
TMC: Yes, in different ways. It’s mainly been harassment, not only myself but my family too, who also became dissident. They have tried to break me using them more than myself. For example, my son-in-law was fixing up the house and even though the materials he had were all legal, the police came by wanting to implicate him in an alleged crime of receiving stolen property, steel rebar to be exact. Luckily, we were able to prove these charges were false because we had all the paperwork in order to their great surprise. Yet, they still handcuffed him and held him locked up in a cell for 24 hours.
My daughter and son-in-law then wanted to go to Guyana in September 2018 so they could buy some things, they were trying to get things ready for my granddaughter’s 15th birthday. They were also going to try and bring some goods back and maybe start up a business to get by. However, when they got to the airport, my daughter wasn’t allowed to fly. They told her that she was being “regulated”, for her activism of course. She lost a lot of money with this trip that fell through, that’s why when she was no longer being regulated, they decided to leave Cuba and migrate, traveling to Central America, Mexica and then the US.
HT: So your daughter and son-in-law had to emigrate because of repression?
TMC: Yes, it was something they had to do, as they weren’t allowed to prosper, and they had two young girls they had to raise. We would have liked for them to still be here, with me and the girls, but their parents’ poverty and impotence was greater. As well as knowing that it’s hard for anyone living in Cuba to earn a living, but it’s a lot worse for someone who is being persecuted by the government. Every door was closed to them.
HT: What do you do that bothers the government so much, to the point that they repress and harass you?
TMC: Well, I report human rights violations by any means I can, and I have been kept under their watchful eye from the very beginning because of this. However, the harassment intensified when I took part in an opposition project called “Consulta Popular Cubana”, which included collecting signatures for a petition that would then be presented to the Cuban government. It was endorsed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article. 66 of our former Constitution, which supposedly gave us the right to present petitions and complaints to the authorities.
However, State Security found out about what we were doing, and the torment began. My daughter and her husband also collaborated with collecting signatures and they printed all of the material. They were then summoned by State Security. Then they were even threatened with the custody of their daughters, saying that they wouldn’t be able to raise them if they continued with their activism. It was horrible.
A nephew of mine was then immediately mixed up in a trial, which wasn’t a coincidence at all, but it is a long story so I won’t go into it now. However, I can assure you he is innocent. I wasn’t allowed into the courtroom and I was taken in a car to the police station, where I was held until the trial ended.
On the other hand, my son-in-law had a car to get around. He would often leave Mayari and run into State Security agents (not a coincidence either), and they would sometimes only follow him, but other times they would threaten and pressure him to leave his activism efforts behind. He was afraid that they would run him off the road because of the tone of the threats, so he sold the car.
It was this money that they used to try and travel to Guyana, without success, and then to emigrate to the US, in search of their freedom. They were allowed to travel this time under the threat that if they continued their dissident political activism outside of Cuba, they would never be able to see their daughters again. They are very cruel.
HT: What happened to your daughter and son-in-law in the end, did they make it to the US?
TMC: Yes, they are living in Louisiana, but their immigration status still hasn’t been resolved. They haven’t been treated well there, on the contrary. The reality is that all of the changes in US immigration policy, Cubans who would really qualify for political asylum, are thrown into the same bag as others who are going for more economic reasons, although they are clearly provoked by the government, and are treated the same.
Louisiana is the worst. They have been treated poorly and even been told that there isn’t a dictatorship in Cuba anymore because the president is no longer a Castro. Even though there is democracy and freedom in the US, there are also dictatorship cells in some states, even politicians who support the Cuban government or simply hate immigrants. It’s sad, but that’s the truth.
HT: Is there anything else you would like to say?
TMC: Not really, I am still active in the fight for a free and democratic Cuba. We are currrently collecting signatures for another initiative linked to food production, so that the Government feels public pressure.
I have already been threatened with sedition charges again and with the custody of my granddaughters being taken away from me, while my daughter and son-in-law are in exile. But, nothing will stop me and they know it. I have faith in God, only he can give me the strength to carry on and for us to help each other to overthrow this diabolic tyranny.