Tag Archives: Ladies in White

Will Obama dump dissidents for baseball in Cuba?


The Washington Post

The White House is said to be thrilled that President Obama will attend a baseball game when he visits Cuba two weeks from now: The matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban team will provide a splashy exhibition of the warming relations with the Castro regime. There’s still no word, however, about a promised presidential meeting with Cuban dissidents, the brave women and men whose fight for democratic freedoms in one of the world’s most repressive countries is less glamorous — and more dangerous — than Major League Baseball.

So let’s be clear: Notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s expectation that Cuba will “be fun,” his visit will be an ignoble failure if he does not have a meaningful encounter with the island’s most important human rights activists.

The risk of such an outcome seems to be rising. Administration officials who said Mr. Obama would choose whom he met when he is on the island are now conceding that Cuban officials are trying to prevent him from seeing true opposition leaders. Instead they are proposing that Mr. Obama gather with regime-approved members of “civil society,” perhaps with a couple of moderate government critics mixed in. The disagreement reportedly contributed to a decision by Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cancel a preparatory trip to Havana last week.

The Castros’ resistance is understandable. A direct meeting between Mr. Obama and leaders such as Guillermo Fariñas, the winner of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights, or the Ladies in White, another winner, would give a big boost to their cause. It would legitimize their demands for free speech, free assembly and freedom for political prisoners and put pressure on the regime to respond to them. It would give hope to Cubans that Mr. Obama’s engagement with their country might bring about long-overdue change.

What the Castros hope is that Mr. Obama instead will focus on baseball and new U.S. steps to bolster the Cuban economy, such as allowing use of the dollar. That would divert attention from the fact that repression in Cuba has not eased in the 15 months since the diplomatic thaw began; in fact, it has gotten worse. Dissidents who tried to meet with Pope Francis during his recent visit were detained or beaten. Will those who try to approach Mr. Obama meet the same fate? Any critic who manages to get into a “civil society” meeting such as that proposed by the regime would be drowned out by its loyalists.

As so often in its dealings with the Castros, the administration sacrificed leverage by announcing the presidential visit before the terms for a meeting with dissidents were agreed on. That makes it harder to insist on the gathering that should take place: a small, focused dialogue with internationally recognized advocates of democracy and human rights. Still, if the White House pushes as hard to see Mr. Fariñas and the Ladies in White as it has for the Tampa Bay Rays, it should succeed. If not, Mr. Obama can and should call off his trip.

Nearly 300 Cuban Dissidents Arrested on Sunday


Via Capitol Hill Cubans

The human rights situation in Cuba is going from bad to worse under Obama’s blank check for the Castro regime.

For the 31st Sunday in a row, nearly 300 Cuban dissidents were arrested as they tried to attend Mass, then peacefully demonstrate as part of the #TodosMarchamos (#WeAllMarch) campaign.

In Havana, nearly 100 members of The Ladies in White — the renowned group composed of the wives, daughters, mothers and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners — were arrested.

Among those arrested was its leader, Berta Soler, who on Friday was threatened by Castro’s secret police that “her time in the opposition had come to an end.”

In the provinces, 98 activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were arrested in the eastern city of Santiago; 51 in Camaguey; 9 in Las Tunas; 9 in Guantanamo; and 12 in Holguin.

Among those arrested was Cuban labor leader and former prisoner of conscience, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, who also received death threats from Castro’s secret police.

It’s “what change looks like” in Obama’s Cuba.

Christian Science Monitor: Why these Catholics plan to protest at pope’s Cuba visit


A group of Catholic protesters were arrested in Havana less than a week before a visit from Pope Francis to Cuba. The protesters say the Catholic Church should do more for their political cause.
Pope Francis plans to visit Cuba on Saturday, and a group of Catholic women are ready and waiting – with a protest. When the pope visits, some Cubans will be focused on whether Cuba will change its restrictive political policies in the wake of a renewal of diplomatic relations with the US. These are Cubans who have been unhappy with their government – and the Roman Catholic church which they say has failed to stand up to it.
More than 50 people were detained Sunday during a protest after mass. Activists walked around the streets of Havana holding photos of political prisoners. The mostly Roman Catholic group, Ladies in White, was among the protesters, and the women left for the protest from the Santa Rita Catholic Church, Time reports.
This protest comes just three days after the Cuban government announced Friday the release of 3,522 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill before the visit from the pope. The prisoners were selected based on their behavior while in prison and the type of crime they had committed, according to Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma. Many of those released are over age 60 or under 20, and some are foreign, but most did not commit violent crimes or “crimes against state security.”
Similar protests by Ladies in White occur almost every Sunday, but the women were detained this time after they left their authorized route and walked down a side street, Reuters reports. Dissidents say about 100 people are detained every Sunday, and August saw a particularly high number.
The Ladies in White plan to protest during the three-day visit of Pope Francis to Cuba.
The Ladies in White and some of their dissident allies say the Roman Catholic Church is too friendly with the government. They direct much of their criticism at Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a friend of Pope Francis who has risen to greater influence under Raul Castro.
“The Church should be concerned about this or any time human rights are involved,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, told Reuters. “It is their duty,” he said. He was handcuffed and detained for an hour on Sunday.
The Ladies in White began protesting in 2003. At that time the women’s group marched in white to protest on behalf of their husbands and relatives, who were imprisoned for political activism, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The protests became a weekly event, as women who had left politics to the men now took to the streets.
Cardinal Ortega helped negotiate for the prisoners’ release, but he angered the Ladies in White by refusing to support them as an opposition group afterward, Reuters reported.
Cuban officials claim funding for the Ladies in White comes from right-wing political groups in the US that want to destabilize the Cuban government, reports the BBC.
In the same month that Cuba welcomes the pontiff, the country announced that doctors who deserted the country while working abroad may return from exile, the BBC reports. Some 25,000 doctors from Cuba work in government programs for healthcare in other countries. Critics say these doctors are underpaid, as the government pockets the profits, but the government insists much of the care is free to needy countries in Latin America and Africa.

Christian Science Monitor


All ready to receive the Pope: Over 50 dissidents, most of them Catholics arrested on Sunday

Cuban security personnel detain a member of the Ladies in White group after their weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
Cuban security personnel detain a member of the Ladies in White group after their weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

Cuban police detained about 50 people when a predominantly Roman Catholic dissident group led a march in Havana on Sunday, less than a week before Pope Francis visits the communist-ruled country.
Such detentions have become common following regular Sunday marches by the Ladies in White, a group that has criticized the Roman Catholic Church and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega for failing to advocate on its behalf with the Cuban government.
Ladies in White leader Berta Soler told Reuters the women planned to attend masses that Pope Francis will lead in Havana and Holguin while in Cuba from Sept. 19-22. The pope will also visit Santiago de Cuba.
“I would discuss with the pope the need to stop police violence against those who exercise their freedom to demonstrate in public,” Soler said.
Cuba’s government considers the dissidents to be provocateurs who are financed by anti-communist groups in the United States as part of an effort to destabilize the government in Havana.
In their weekly rally following mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Catholic Church, about 40 of the women, accompanied by about a dozen male supporters, marched outside their authorized route and down a side street where they were set upon by some 200 government supporters and police.
Female police pushed, pulled and carried the women onto buses as some sat down in an attempt to resist. The men were handcuffed and shoved into police cars and vans.
Similar incidents have occurred over the last few months, with those detained soon released. Dissidents have said about 100 people are typically detained each Sunday across Cuba.
In August, Cuban police detained 768 dissidents of all stripes for political activity, the highest monthly total so far this year, according to the dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
Among those detained on Sunday was Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the country’s largest dissident organization. He was released about an hour later.
“The Church should be concerned about this or any time human rights are involved,” Ferrer said after police handcuffed him, took him to a station and later dropped him off at a bus terminal. “It is their duty.”
The Church says it advocates for human rights with the government but cannot take up partisan political causes.


Chilean lawmaker beaten, arrested during protest in Cuba


A right-wing Chilean congressman just back from a private visit to Cuba complained Monday that he was beaten, handcuffed and held for nearly three hours by Cuban authorities for participating in a peaceful demonstration by the Ladies in White dissident organization in Havana.
“Without any dialogue, a shock group of the Castro regime arrived; they proceeded to beat those of us who were marching, without asking us for any identification and they arrested us,” Felipe Kast told reporters at Santiago’s international airport.
He added that he remained under detention for more than 2 1/2 hours until he was permitted to make a telephone call.
“There was no dialogue, the shock group of approximately 100 people simply arrived in vehicles, in buses, and I was knocked to the ground, handcuffed and taken to another place without being able to explain or learning any reason for it,” he said.
Kast thanked Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz and the country’s ambassador in Cuba, Gonzalo Mendoza, for their efforts to obtain his release and added that he had traveled to Havana to spend time with relatives who live on the island.
He said that the people who arrested him probably did not know that he was a Chilean lawmaker.
“I imagine that they didn’t know I was a legislator, which makes it just as serious as if they would have known,” said Kast, who added that each week the members of the Ladies in White suffer the same treatment to which he was subjected.
Pro-government lawmaker Jorge Tarud, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Chile’s lower house, expressed his outrage at Kast’s arrest, but he added that the lawmaker had not informed the Chilean Embassy in Cuba of his intention to participate in a demonstration.
Meanwhile, Communist congressman Daniel Nuñez said that Kast had tried to obstruct the strengthening of relations between Santiago and Havana after Muñoz’s official visit to Cuba last week.

Fox News Latino

Cuban dissident group seeks meeting with Pope Francis during visit


The Ladies in White, wives and relatives of former political prisoners, submit request with evidence that activists ‘have been victims of repression’ recently
Cuba’s dissidents caution against assumptions and complacency
The Ladies in White, made up of the wives and relatives of former political prisoners, visited the Vatican’s mission in Cuba to submit their request.
Group leader Berta Soler said she has passed along information about human rights in Cuba to Vatican officials, including “evidence of ladies and activists who have been victims of repression in recent weeks”.
She has also expressed concern that the government will prevent dissidents from attending the pope’s masses while in the communist country.
Ladies in White is the only group in the single-party country permitted to stage weekly marches in a specific area.
The Ladies in White was created after the so-called “black spring” of 2003, when Cuban authorities rounded up 75 dissidents and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.
During his visit to the island in September, the pope is scheduled to give two outdoor masses, one in Havana.
He is also set to meet with President Raúl Castro, who recently began a warming of ties with the US alongside President Barack Obama, after decades of enmity.
The Vatican was a key interlocutor in the secret negotiations that preceded the thaw.
Pope Francis will travel to the US after the Cuba visit.

The Guardian

Cuba: Catholic Church Bans Relatives of Political Prisoners from Mass


A Catholic church in the central Cuban city of Cienfuegos has banned female relatives of political prisoners from attending mass unless they no longer wear white, a color associated with political imprisonment in the nation. The slight to families of the abused follows the bewildering remark from Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega that Cuba no longer has prisoners of conscience.
Eight members of the Ladies in White activist group have attended Sunday Catholic Mass wearing white for years, sitting in the pews in silence unless participating in the Mass. No reports have surfaced of the women themselves–mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters of prisoners of conscience–disturbing the Mass. Nonetheless, a priest in Cienfuegos expelled them from his service, ordering them never to wear white again in his church if they wish to attend services.
The priest, identified as “Father Tarciso,” told Diario de Cuba that the women were “disrespectful,” stating, “I had told them that the way things are could not continue to be. … I cannot allow our community to be further fractured,” he argued. He accused them of taking photographs inside the church, which the ladies deny. Miladis Espino Díaz, a representative of the Ladies in White, noted that they were expelled from the church and, upon walking out, could hear the priest apologize to those in attendance for not having done it sooner.
“We do not only go to church because we are Ladies in White,” Espino Díaz told the newspaper, “but because we believe in God. We sing, we pray, we participate, we do nothing wrong.”
Following their removal from the church, the women testified to being the victim of a number of offensive acts, including a man “exposing himself and urinating in front of them,” “obscene gestures using fingers,” and “being called prostitutes.”
Offenses to the Ladies in White are common as they attempt to attend Mass; in a particularly gruesome instance last year, one woman was tarred for wearing white to the service.
Two male supporters of the group, Emilio García Moreira and Alexander Veliz García, began a hunger strike Thursday to support the return of the women to Mass.
Catholic religion is heavily regulated in communist Cuba, where it is technically a counterrevolutionary activity but has managed to persist, particularly given overtures by Pope Francis towards the Castro dictatorship. “If he keeps talking like this, I’ll return to the Church,” Raúl Castro said of the Pope this year following his support of major U.S. concessions to the Castro regime. Pope Francis was a direct mediator between President Obama and Raúl Castro before the American head of state chose to strip Cuba of its State Sponsor of Terrorism status–despite no evidence in a change of support to either the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or Hezbollah–in exchange for nothing from Cuba.
Meanwhile, Catholic Mass remains among the most popular locations for mass political arrests. According to the watchdog Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which keeps a monthly tally of politically motivated arrests in Cuba, authorities made 641 political arrests in May, the latest month for which statistics are available. Out of the 641 arrests, 219 occurred either at a Mass or outside a church, where Ladies in White were arrested before they could attend services. Thirty instances of Mass-related arrests took place in May.
Despite overt targeting on the part of Cuban authorities, Catholic officials have insisted on defending the Cuban government against their congregants. In an interview on Spanish radio this month, Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega made the perplexing claim that Cuba no longer houses political prisoners. “When Pope Benedict came [to Cuba], there was a pardon of the common prisoners, because there are no political prisoners left in Cuba anymore,” he alleged.
Multiple human rights groups have confirmed that there are at least 71 political prisoners in Cuba, with others arrested on vague charges of disturbing public order and “counterrevolutionary activities” that may also be politically motivated. Cuban activists have reacted with horror to Ortega’s remarks, particularly in light of a scheduled visit to the island by Pope Francis himself in September. The visit, said 17-year political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez, will be “a very dangerous visit, because it will serve to legitimize the regime like never before.” Berta Soler, head of the Ladies in White group, responded with similar outrage, given that Ortega’s remarks render the families of the women in her group nonexistent. “We find it deplorable that Cardinal [Ortega] uses the same rhetoric as the Cuban government. The Catholic Church should not be biased; it should protect and shelter every suffering, defenseless person,” she said in a statement.

Breitbart News