http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/ladies-in-white-marched-today-to-national-assembly-headquarters-in-protest/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Ladies in White marched today to National Assembly headquarters in protest

Posted December 09, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Reuters

Fifty female relatives of Cuban political prisoners marched on Sunday to National Assembly headquarters demanding the release of their loved ones and braving insults and jeers from government supporters.

Monday is International Human Rights Day and the group, known as the “Women in White,” said the protest was a prelude to other activities this week designed to draw attention to abuses by the island’s Communist authorities.

Protests are rare in Cuba and in the past similar marches have often been broken up by government supporters.

“We are here to demand our prisoners’ freedom and so the government understands it’s punishing innocent people,” said Miriam Leiva, wife of recently freed dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe.

The women, dressed in white and holding flowers, marched some 20 blocks through the busy streets of Havana’s Miramar district to parliament headquarters, where a crowd of government supporters gathered and returned their chants of “freedom” with shouts of “mercenaries” and “worms.”

The Cuban government contends all its opponents are paid and organized by its arch-enemy, the United States, and often refers to anti-Castro activists in Florida as worms.

The hostile crowd followed the women for a few blocks as they marched back to Santa Rita Church, where they have held a weekly Sunday vigil since a 2003 crackdown on dissent landed dozens of anti-government activists in prison.

A group of 15 young women from Latin America and Europe with banners that read “democracy” and “freedom” joined the protesters at the church.

“Since we knew about the ladies in white we thought we would give them a little support,” said Laura Costa, a university student from Spain.

The women then gathered around a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the nearby park to laud the revered Indian civil disobedience leader and thank the young women for their support.

“We want peace, love and liberty,” said Laura Pollan, leader of the group, which two years ago won the Sakharov prize, the European Union’s top human rights award.

Police have picked up dozens of dissidents in recent days in Cuba for temporary detention, according to Cuba’s main rights group, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which charges the government wants to stifle opposition street protests planned for Monday.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

Member Comments

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On December 09, 2007, publisher wrote:

Congratulations ladies. I’m happy to give you all the “ink” you need.

Good luck tomorrow. Be safe!

Raul… you encourage discussion about the economy and society. People are not going to just sit in a room and write you letters especially when it comes to jailed political prisoners.

You want to stay in office and orchestrate change? Let the Ladies in White have their freedom, let people march peacefully tomorrow (remember, you are the side with the guns) and think about releasing some of the husbands of the Ladies in White (give the people what they want).

Otherwise, get out of the way… change is coming.

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On December 10, 2007, J. Perez wrote:

Peaceful protest and dissent such as this should be allowed and more than that, a dialogue should begin, Fidel & Raul should remember why they went to the Sierra and that should help them understand these ladies better.

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On December 11, 2007, publisher wrote:

And here’s the Reuters news report about expelling the foreigners because they walked with the Ladies in White and carried signs that said Freedom and Democracy.

How dare they come to Cuba as tourists and walk down a street carrying a sign that says Freedom. Yeah, right. The more the Cuban government cracks down on these types of peaceful protest, the more silly and afraid it appears.

I support MORE of these types of protests and will give every one the “ink” it deserves.

Freedom and change is coming. The door has been opened and Raul will not be able to put the genie back in the bottle, nor do I think he is the right person to lead Cuba through the door of change.

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Cuba deported eight Spanish women on Monday who took part in a dissident protest for the release of political prisoners, a Spanish diplomat said.

Cuban authorities seized their passports and airline tickets and told them to stay in their hotels after they took part on Sunday in a march by Cuban women demanding the release of their husbands and sons jailed for political reasons.

“They told us they were coming for us later to expel us,” the spokeswoman for the group, Barcelona city councilor Francina Vila, told reporters.

Spanish diplomats accompanied the women, members of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party, to Havana airport and saw them onto a flight to Madrid.

The deportations occurred on International Human Rights Day as Cuba’s communist government announced it would sign two United Nations covenants on political, civil and social rights.

The Catalan women, along with others from Sweden, Bosnia and Peru, had joined a march by a Cuban dissident group known as the “Ladies in White” because they dress in that color and walk in silent protest demanding freedom for their men.

The foreign women, who traveled to Cuba on tourist visas, carried banners that said “democracy” and “freedom.”

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On December 11, 2007, manfredz wrote:

You’re right - the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.  Lets hope the wishes its asked to grant however do the most good for all…..
There was a time when the state couldnt have cared less about bad publicity - think those days are over (altho there may be fallbacks) so that bad publicity will be factored in before the state reacts to protest.  Think it’ll be a longer time before the factor will be “its their right” rather than bad publicity.
Contrary to some, however, I feel it could happen under Raul and co.

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On December 11, 2007, publisher wrote:

Lots of tourists come from Spain so I imagine this latest news might have some Spaniards thinking twice about spending a vacation in Cuba.

So, yes, since Raul is more business minded than Fidel, he may very well care about bad publicity and see how it can directly affect tourism.

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On December 11, 2007, manfredz wrote:

Don’t think a few Spanish tourists being kicked out for demonstating will raise the Spanish consciounce much (or Canadian or German if it were their citizens).  If anything people are gonna think along the lines of “served them right for poking their nose into Cuban politics) which is why the Cuban governement simply kicked them out (probably with a “do not return” notice) rather than lock them up for some time or similar to deter others.
Agree its probably much more a business decision rather than a political one.  Normally a negative indicator in itself, but lets face it, if it helps bring more freedom for more people without causing total chaos - i’ll go along with progressive business decisions.