For Cuban Women, Sundays Are for Protest Marches

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Relatives of political prisoners in Cuba--many of them women--are fighting to curb abuses they say family members suffer during incarceration. One of the most prominent opposition groups, Ladies in White, meets on Sundays.

(WOMENSENEWS)-- Four women stood with anti-government signs in a well-trafficked square in Havana.

They were members of Ladies in White, a group that formed in 2003 after 75 political dissidents were jailed.

Dressed in white--the color of peace--they march to Catholic mass to pray for human rights and the release of relatives and loved ones in prison.

The group has been meeting on Sundays across Cuba for years. But this particular small demonstration a couple of months ago--on Aug. 23 in Havana--proved momentous. When a plain-clothes police officer came to break up the women, some nearby people defended the women and forced the officer to leave in search of backup.

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It wasn't the first time bystanders had aided the women, but because it was in such a busy area, it was the first time such an action was caught on video with cell-phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube the very next day.

"It was visible proof, released to an international audience over YouTube, that there is an increasing support for the resistance movement," said Aramis Perez, a leader of the Assembly of Cuban Resistance, based in Miami, Fla.

Often, he said, reports filed from Havana are censored or written by government supporters and describe activist groups as "small and fragmented."

Two days later Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, published a call to stop the repression of the Ladies in White.

Police and government officials have violently attacked individuals and groups of female political dissidents on at least 25 occasions this year--sometimes while the women were engaged in nonviolent protest, and other times while they were with their families at home--according to a report released by the Assembly of Cuban Resistance in August. The report, "Cuba: Violent Aggressions Against Women, Human Rights Defenders," was based on daily communication with activist groups in Cuba.

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The Ladies in White were formed to protest the imprisonment of their spouses in Cuba. They had been found guilty of receiving payment and political direction from the United States government. Long before their sentences were completed, every one of them was released from prison. Some have left the country, others have remained.

Wikileaks released US documents indicating that these women had sought and obtained thousands of dollars in US government funding, which they continue to seek.

Since these Ladies have lost their issue, with all of their spouses released, it looks like they've decided to find some other issue about which to campaign and to raise funds.

This article claims that protesting women in Cuba are beaten, but the video doesn't show anything like that. Indeed, quite the opposite. None were beaten. Look at the video:

While hundreds of women and men who are peacefully protesting social injustice across the United States in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, they have been met by beatings and arrests in numerous cities around the country.

Cuba has an endless number of social and economic problems, none of which are easily solved. It can and should solve its own problems without the intervention of hostile foreign powers aimed at toppling Cuba's government.

It's time to allow the people of the United States the freedom to travel to Cuba and see it, warts and all, with their own eyes.

Thank you.