Laura Labrada and a Hundred Ladies in White Distance Themselves From Berta Soler

Laura Labrada durante la conferencia de prensa en la sede de las Damas de Blanco (14ymedio)
Laura Labrada during the press conference at the headquarters of the Ladies in White (14ymedio)

In a press conference Thursday in Havana, the Lady in White Laura Labrada, daughter of the late Laura Pollán, announced the creation of a foundation with the name of her mother said she wouldn’t allow “Berta Soler to use the name of [her] mother in her movement.”

In a long document, read in front of independent journalists and foreign correspondents, Labrada accused Soler of poor leadership of the movement and “adopting irreverent conduct.” She added, “I respect from a distance what [Soler] does and her effort, for this she should use her own name, which history will view with mistrust.”

The foundation, which will be created shortly, will have as its objective support for the most disadvantaged people, according to Labrada, especially children and the elderly. During the round of questions, the Lady in White said that in making these decisions she counted on the support of “more than a hundred women,” belonging to the movement.

“There have been lamentable events, which have challenged not only the prestige of the organization but also its intended purpose“

In the first point of the statement, Labrada says that since the death of her mother, “There have been lamentable events, which have challenged not only the prestige of the organization but also its intended purpose and its methods.”

She highlighted, “Unjustified expulsions, resignations for mistreatment, misunderstandings and the lack of democracy. The intrusions of people from outside the movement in decision-making, fights between men and incitements to violence, internal repudiation rallies in the style of the Castro regime, and disqualifications.”

The conference has taken place a few weeks since a hundred women, among them Labrada herself, signed a letter in which they asked for changes within the Ladies in White. The organization was going through “a very difficult situation with undemocratic procedures that are happening in the headquarters of our organization,” the document asserted.

Berta Soler, who assumed the leadership of the group after the death of Laura Pollán, responded to the call for a referendum on her leadership. She received a widely favorable result, getting 180 votes out of a total of 201.

The organization has faced other problems in the past year. In September 2014, a group of women in the province of Santiago de Cuba, led by Belkis Cantillo, founded Citizens for Democracy. This decision was taken following the disagreements between Belkis Cantillo and Berta Soler that caused the separation of dozens of women from the Ladies in White.

The Ladies in White movement arose after the arrests of the Black Spring, exactly 12 years ago. A group of women dressed in white marched after attending mass at the Santa Rita parish in the Miramar neighborhood, to peacefully protest and give visibility to the situation of the political prisoners jailed that March of 2003. Laura Pollán stood out, together with Miriam Leyva and Gisela Delgado, and became the leader of the group and the most recognized figure internationally. The Ladies in White received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Price, which they did not collect until 2013, as the Government did not allow them to travel to participate in the award ceremony.

The house at 963 Neptune Street “cannot be returned to the women who participated in the act of repudiation against Alejandrina García de la Riva”

In her statements, Labrada referred to the negotiations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and said that “we support and recognize the decision of the United States government, a historic event that offers new opportunities to establish true democracy in Cuba. Then it will depend on us, the people, to know how to take advantage of it to construct a strong civil society that visualizes the path to freedom.”

To a question from  14ymedio about the property at 963 Neptune, Laura Labrada said that this house “cannot be returned to the women who participated in an act of repudiation against Alejandrina García de la Riva.”

The house, located in Cental Havana, has been the headquarters of the Ladies in White since it emerged in 2003 and, until her death in 2011, the leader of the movement Laura Pollán lived there. The house has been the direct target of acts of repudiation, monitoring and control by the political police during all those years, and in it have been carried out numerous activities such as literary teas – the most important meetings of the organization – and tributes or memorials to other figures of the opposition movement. In addition, the place served as a shelter for women activists who came from other provinces to the capital. Currently living in the house is Laura Pollán’s widower, Hector Masada, who was one of the 75 opponents imprisoned during the Black Spring.


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