Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro

Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro
Bearing witness to Cuba's political persecution costs Sonia Garro her
April 20, 2014 5:34 p.m. ET

Christians the world over celebrated the resurrection of their savior on
Sunday with worship services and family gatherings.
Thirty-eight-year-old Sonia Garro shares the faith too, but she spent
the holiday in a Cuban dungeon as a prisoner of conscience, just as she
has for the past two years.

Ms. Garro is a member of the Christian dissident group Ladies in White,
started in Havana in 2003 by sisters, wives and mothers of political
prisoners to peacefully protest the unjust incarceration of their loved
ones. It has since expanded to other parts of the country and added many
recruits. The group's growing popularity has worried the Castros, and
they have responded with increasing brutality.

Cuba's military government wants us to believe that the Brothers Fidel
and Raul Castro are "reforming." To buy that line you have to pretend
that Ms. Garro and her sisters in Christ don't exist. Of course that's
often the impression one gets from Havana-based reporters working for
foreign media outlets.

They've been invited into the country not to serve the truth but to
serve the dictatorship. Fortunately, there are brave and independent
Cuban journalists who continue to tell the Ladies' story, despite scant

In the late winter of 2012, Cubans were looking forward to a visit from
Pope Benedict XVI and the Ladies were lobbying the Vatican for an
audience. Their relentless pleading was embarrassing the dictatorship,
which had been beating them in the streets on their way to Sunday Mass
for almost a decade. It was also making the Church, which had already
cut its own deal with the regime on the terms of the visit, look bad. On
the weekend of March 17 Castro sent the Ladies a warning by locking up
some 70 of their members.

Most of those detained, including leader Berta Soler, had been freed by
the time the pontiff touched down in Cuba nine days later, but Ms. Garro
was not. Benedict celebrated some Masses, did photo ops with the despots
and left.

It was a clever strategy: The world saw the release of the many Ladies,
which obscured the continued detention of the one. That one—poor, black
and not well known internationally—serves, to this day, as a constant
reminder of the wrath Castro will bring down on anyone in the barrios
who gets out of line.

By 2012 Ms. Garro already had experience with state violence. Her record
of counterrevolutionary activities included running a recreation center
in her home for troubled youths. For that she was twice beaten by
government-sanctioned mobs. She suffered a broken nose in police
detention in 2010.

When security agents took her home to put her under house arrest ahead
of the pope's visit, she was met by a mob sent to harass her. Her
husband, Ramon Alejandro Muñoz, had climbed to the roof and was chanting
anti-dictatorship slogans. Two neighbors took the couple's side.
Special-forces police were called in. They raided the home, shot Ms.
Garro in the leg with rubber bullets and hauled the couple and two
neighbors to jail.

Related Video
Sonia Garro, a 38-year-old mother and a member of the dissident group
Ladies in White, just spent her third Easter as a prisoner of conscience
in one of Castro's dungeons. Mary Anastasia O'Grady discusses. Photo: Getty.

Eighteen months later prosecutors charged Ms. Garro with assault,
attempted murder and public disorder. Her husband and one neighbor,
Eugenio Hernández, are accused of attempted murder and public disorder.
The prosecution is seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Ms. Garro, 14
years for Mr. Muñoz, and 11 years for Mr. Hernández.

Anyone who has ever read about Soviet show trials will recognize the
state's case. The prosecutors claim that Messrs. Muñoz and Hernández
were both on the roof and knew a police officer could have been killed
when they threw things to try to stop him from climbing a ladder to
reach them.

The regime alleges that the couple had been planning street
disturbances. The "evidence" confiscated from their home included
bottles, machetes, rebar and cardboard protest signs. The state claims
that containers with fuel found in the home were Molotov cocktails.

Every household item or piece of scrap found in a poor Cuban household
is considered a weapon when the state wants to convict a prisoner. By
its logic the frying pan and the iron should have been cited too. With
good aim, they can be deadly. As to the combustibles inside the home,
Ms. Garro's sister Yamilet Garro told independent journalist Augusto
Cesar San Martín Albistur, "the items were for lighting during the
blackouts that are quite common in the area." For Castro, the most
dangerous items were the antigovernment signs.

Ms. Garro's real crime is her refusal to surrender her soul to the
state. That makes her an exemplary Christian but a lousy revolutionary.
The peril she presents is showing Cubans how to be both.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

Source: Mary Anastasia O'Grady: Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro -
WSJ.com -

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