In Cuba: From Silent Protests to Cries for Liberty
Havana, Cuba – July 15, 2009
On Sunday, July 12, Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White),
celebrated Mass at La Iglesia de Santa Rita as they have done every
Sunday since the Spring of 2003.
The Ladies in White began demonstrating when the Cuban government
arrested, tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent
journalists, and librarians.
Last Sunday, as usual, the elegantly white-clothed ladies, met at the
mass held in the Santa Rita church, and afterwards walked together down
Fifth Avenue in Havana.
But on that day, in what has traditionally been a silent protest of the
unjust incarceration of their loved ones and the lack of fundamental
freedoms in Cuba turned vocal.
A number of Cuban onlookers were stunned by the display.
David Angel, a 36-year old Cuban who was playing with his 2-year-old
son, Edgar Luis, in the park next to Santa Rita said, "I have never seen
anything like this in Cuba before."
Within the past few years, the international community has taken notice
of the courage of The Ladies in White.
In October 2005, Las Damas de Blanco were awarded the prestigious
Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament. The following year, Human
Rights First honored them for their "brave defense of human rights."
According to a 2006 statement made by Miriam Leiva, founding member of
Las Damas de Blanco,
"Cuba will never again be the same. The people deserve the right to
express themselves without fear, to know what's happening, to contribute
their opinions, to participate in the decisions, to really be the
masters of their fate, to help our homeland to recover economically and
join the international commonwealth.??
One of the first steps has to be the release of the 75 prisoners of
conscience, those people sentenced unjustly in March 2003 to terms of up
to 28 years; the 60 who are in prison and the 12 who have been released
on parole for reasons of health and remain in the country; as well as
the release of the other peaceful prisoners of conscience and political
prisoners, including those who have been awaiting charges and trials
since July 2005."
José Francisco Johnson Donnelly, a 44-year-old American completing a
book in Havana about social justice said, "Cuba is full of
contradictions…and something has got to change very soon."
Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Regla, unofficial reports that a
Catholic church burned down in the early morning hours of July 14, and
that the Spanish pastor was found dead inside, filled the streets of Havana.
Luis Carlos Montalván: In Cuba: From Silent Protests to Cries for
Liberty (15 July 2009)