Sunday Respite for the Ladies in White

Damas de Blanco frente a la iglesia de Santa Rita en La Habana. (Agustin Lopez Canino)
Ladies in White in front of St. Rita Catholic Church in Havana. (Agustin Lopez Canino)

The Ladies in White marched for the freedom of political prisoners as they left mass this Sunday, an activity held every week and one which had special significance on this occasion because it was the first time since the announcement of reestablishment of relations with the United States. In Havana and Pinar del Río, where there are usually arrests and acts of repudiation against these peaceful activists, there were no repressive activities.

In Santiago de Cuba, however, the Citizens for Democracy suffered the usual repression, according to the Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Of the 36 women who were preparing to go to mass, only half managed to arrive there, while the remaining 18 were detained and abandoned in sites far from their homes.* The organization came into being after a rift with the Ladies in White over differences.

No other province had reported, as of last night, more cases of arrests or ill-treatment. The meeting this Sunday put to the test, for many, the political will of the Cuban government to behave in way coherent with the negotiations held with the United States government. The relative calm of the day has been interpreted by many opponents, however, as a maneuver by the regime to deceive public opinion and the international press.

At the end of the mass at Santa Rita Church in Havana, some 60 women marched through the pedestrian crossing on Fifth Avenue and then gathered in a park where some activists expressed their disagreement with the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, which some classified as a betrayal of the Cuban people.

Among the speakers who expressed that view were Ángel Moya, former prisoner of the Cause of the 75 of the 2003 Black Spring, and Antonio González Rodríguez, who both rejected the results of the talks because they only lead to sustaining and recycling in power the current leaders and their family members.

*Translator’s note: It is a common practice of State Security Agents to detain dissidents and, rather than processing them at a police station, to simply drive them far out into the countryside and put them out of the vehicle, with no way to get home.

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