Damas de Blanco honoured in Brussels

Ladies in White or the Damas de Blanco, the courageous mothers and wives of Cuban political prisoners, were finally allowed to come to Brussels to pick up the Sakharov Prize they were awarded in 2005.

English: Laura Pollán, Ladie in White, the wif...

Laura Pollán, founder of the Damas de Blanco or Ladies in White

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (1948 – 2011) founded the dissident group, Ladies in White, two weeks after the arrests of 75 individuals of “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”, including belonging to “illegal organizations”, accepting money from the United States Interests Section in Havana and of “hijacking”, “terrorist activities”, and collaborating with foreign media. After each Sunday Mass the relatives of the prisoners  gathered at St. Rita’s Church in Havana to pray for their relatives in aw ritual procession from the church to a nearby park. The white clothing they wear is reminiscent of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, who used a similar strategy to demand information about their missing children from the 1970s military junta. Each marcher wears a button with a photo of her jailed relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

English: Julia Núñez, Ladie in White, the wife...

English: Julia Núñez, Ladie in White, the wife of de cuban political prisoner Adolfo Fernández Saínz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cuban government tried to infiltrate and weaken the group. On Palm Sunday in 2005, the pro-government Federation of Cuban Women sent 150 women to counter-protest la Damas de Blanco.

In 2005, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded jointly to Reporters without Borders, Nigerian human rights lawyer Huawa Ibrahim, and the Ladies in White. Five of the leaders of the movement were selected to receive the prize: Laura Pollán, whose husband Hector Maseda is serving a 20-year sentence; Miriam Leiva, whose husband Oscar Espinosa Chepe has been conditionally released due to a serious illness; Berta Soler, whose husband Angel Moya Acosta is serving 20 years; Loida Valdes, whose husband Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was sentenced to 26 years; and Julia Núñez, whose husband Adolfo Fernández Saínz is serving 15 years. Some of the women were prevented from visiting their husbands to tell them of the award, but Laura Pollán told the Wall Street Journal that those who were told “are very happy and very proud”.

But the Cuban government barred the group’s leaders from attending the Sakharov Prize award ceremony in Strasbourg, France, drawing an appeal on the group’s behalf from the European Parliament. They were not allowed to go out of Cuba by the Cuban government, which mantained a rigid control over the people exiting the country. The rules are more flexible now, and the Ladies in White are taking advantage of it to go and pick up their deserved prize. At last now the prize shall be collected and taken to the Cuban women.

Berta Soler is now the president of the group and was given an exit visa in accordance with an immigration reform law that permits Cuban dissidents to travel abroad for the first time. In this way Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez is touring since February and now on a tour of the U.S. on a similar permit. Soler will be bestowed with the Cuba Freedom Fighter Award from UM’s Cuban and Cuban-American Studies/Casa Bacardi on May 17th during the group’s inaugural gala at the Coral Gables Country Club.

Many may rejoice that dictator Raul Castro has lifted travel restrictions for most — but not all — Cubans and instituted other so-called reforms. But human rights activist Berta Soler, a beneficiary of the most high-profile change, is not fooled.

Repression in Cuba “rages” and those opposed to the communist dictatorship are frequently victims of “state terrorism,” said Soler, on Monday after she arrived in Spain for a visit. Soler’s husband, Angel Moya, one of the Group of 75 prisoners of conscience jailed in 2003 and released in 2010-2011, was denied permission to travel overseas because he remains under a sort of parole.

Those who want to ask them questions and get to hear more about the situation in Cuba are welcome to talk to them at the European Parliament today April the 23°.

Laura Labrada said:

“It will be an honor to go in representation of the Ladies in White and above all my mother, Laura Pollan,”

Phillip Jeffrey on the question of Anna Wozniak “what is your message to the European Parliament? What more the EU can do to help political activists in Cuba?” replied:

I am not wishing any further war with anyone but I have managed to resist and will resist till my last breath. Please make sure I won’t get back empty handed and no matter how prepared well or ill negligible, I demand somebody to be present this Friday as I won’t go very far. Please end this crisis so I’ll be less paranoid and psychologically immune to such a torment.
Finally if I will have to return back to downtown I don’t want hackers or cops to stop me. If I’ll get my rights prior to May, this will be an asset.
Also a certain country is strongly advised to render citizenship, without interfering other countries’ entities because for over a decade the country I mention has a brutal way of handling foreign nationals for threat. Therefore if my rights will be fully given back, this will at least present me with fairer representation also I demand a tax exempt status because government means can be punitive in this measure, no armament ban or no tax chores.

The authorities are very scared says dissident Ovid Martin Castellanos. “The growth of the Ladies in White … happens every day.”

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  • Human rights under abuse in Cuba (miamiherald.com)
    The State Department’s latest report on human-rights practices effectively puts the lie to the idea that the piecemeal and illusory changes in Cuba under Gen. Raúl Castro represent a genuine political opening toward greater freedom.If anything, things are getting worse. The report, which covers 2012, says the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation counted 6,602 short-term detentions during the year, compared with 4,123 in 2011. In March 2012, the same commission recorded a 30-year record high of 1,158 short-term detentions in a single month just before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
  • On Easter Sunday, Castro police detain at least 23 Cuban Ladies In White (marcmasferrer.typepad.com)
    On Easter Sunday, the secret police detained at least 23 Damas trying to attend Mass at the El Cobre sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba, according to Diario De Cuba. However, another 43 members of the group did make it Mass.Similarly, about 40 members were able to attend Mass at various churches in Matanzas province, and in Havana, some 50 Damas made it to Mass at St. Rita’s church and then marched down a major Havana street, as they have most Sundays since the “black spring” crackdown of 2003 that sparked the group’s birth.
  • Cuba’s Ladies in White leader Berta Soler to be honored in Miami (babalublog.com)
    Cuban dissident Berta Soler, president of the famed Damas de Blanco group, will visit South Florida in May to be honored by a University of Miami institute.Soler will be bestowed with the Cuba Freedom Fighter Award from UM’s Cuban and Cuban-American Studies/Casa Bacardi on May 17th during the group’s inaugural gala at the Coral Gables Country Club.
  • UM institute to honor Cuba’s Damas de Blanco leader Berta Soler (miamiherald.com)
    “Berta Soler deserves this recognition and much more,” said Jaime Suchlicki, ICCAS director. “The Damas de Blanco is made up of brave mothers, wives and daughters who defy the Castro government every day risking their lives in the process.”
  • Cuba’s ‘Ladies’ to pick up EU prize 8 years later (mysanantonio.com)
  • 10 years after the Cuban ‘black spring,” Ladies In White still on the streets for freedom (marcmasferrer.typepad.com)
    This 17th of March was the first Sunday in which the Ladies in White marched throughout the streets of Cuba with their leader- Berta Soler- out of the country.  The women also dedicated their weekly march in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents (the majority independent journalists) were arrested and sentenced to years of prison after quick trials.
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    Berta Soler, national representative of the group, has been denouncing the situation each of these women face on her first trip ever outside of Cuba, on international forums and interviews with diverse media outlets.  With the slogan “Yes to Cuba, No to Castro“, Soler has declared that the Ladies in White and the opposition in general have grown stronger despite the regime’s violent tactics and that, in reality, there have been no actual reforms by the totalitarian system, instead “tiny moves” which try to give an image of change to the rest of the world.

    Ladies in White march on March 17th, 2013. Photo by Angel Moya (@jangelmoya)

  • Cuba’s Ladies in White commended on International Women’s Day (babalublog.com)
    Caballero and other members of the Ladies in White were among hundreds of Catholic dissidents who were imprisoned for the duration of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba in March 2012. CSW documented a dramatic increase in violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba in 2012. While Roman Catholic churches reported the highest number of violations, mostly involving the arrest and arbitrary detention of parishioners attempting to attend church activities, other denominations and religious groups were also affected.CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “On International Women’s Day we commend the courage of the Ladies in White in standing up for justice and human rights, keeping the spotlight on the prisoners of conscience in Cuba. CSW urges the international community to continue raising human rights concerns with the Cuban government, including the harassment and imprisonment of human rights activists.”
  • Lady In White leader Berta Soler says Cuban dissidents are victims of ‘state terrorism’ (marcmasferrer.typepad.com)
    Soler’s unapologetic stance towards the Castro dictatorship extends to her reaction to the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the Cuban governments primary financial backer.Soler said she did not revel in Chavez’s death, but also did not regret it because Chavez “applauded the repression” of Cuban dissidents.
  • Cuban activists ask Amnesty International to name Sonia Garro a ‘prisoner of conscience’ (marcmasferrer.typepad.com)
    Cuban democracy activists on Monday requested that Amnesty International declare Cuban political prisoner Sonia Garro Alfonso a “prisoner of conscience,” jailed only because of her political beliefs and peaceful opposition to the Castro regime.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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