Raul Castro: I Fear the Damas de Blanco

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The Damas De Blanco(Damas from here on), or Ladies in White, are the spouses, daughters, and mothers of the 75 Cuban opposition members who were imprisoned in the “Black Spring” of 2003. Raul Castro is afraid of them.

Every Sunday, for the past 7 years, the Ladies in White have attended Mass at the Santa Rita de Casia church in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood. After attending mass, the Damas have marched peacefully to demand the release of their loved ones from prison.

The Cuban government, according to international press reports, had allowed the Damas to march without any official permission. The Damas have never asked for permission either. But that is besides the point. This Sunday, the Cuban government decided to bar the Damas from marching. From several articles that I read, this is my understanding of what happened yesterday, April 18th, 2010.

According to this article, the the government began its repression of the Damas on Friday the 16th:

Las Damas de Blanco…were held hostage this saturday by partisans of the government who surrounded the house of its leader, Laura Pollán, and screamed slogans and insults at them[the Ladies in White]…, such “…down with the worms” and “they aren’t going to leave”

One of the spokesperson for the group, Bertha Soler, declared that since Friday night, State security had organized an operation around the house, with agents dressed as civilians as well as police who closed the entrance to several streets and redirected traffic.

Here is visual evidence of the incident on Saturday:

What happened on Saturday cannot be described as anything else but the Cuban government’s intention of intimidating the Damas so that they did not march the following day.

One may be misled, from looking at the picture, that the individuals surrounding the house of Pollan were simply Cuban citizens that disliked what the Damas’ were doing. But these so called “repudios” or “repudiations”, which the government claims are sporadic uprisings of the Cuban people that represent the true will of the people, are no more than a devious tactic to discredit all types of opposition.  And even if they were just citizens, the Cuban State, by not removing them, is implicitly approving the illegal(as it relates to International Human Rights) temporary imprisonment of the Damas.

The prevention of the Damas march this past Sunday leads one, when analyzing the evidence of both the opposition and the government, to conclude that the repudios are not what the government claims them to be.

The dribbles of information that reached outside the firm but porous walls of the government’s artificially constructed information blockade tell us that most of the Damas were not able to reach mass at the Santa Rita church, as Yoani Sanchez tweeted:

“The majority of the Ladies in White that were going to participate in the mass of Santa Rita Church were prevented from reaching the church”

The AP’s account lends credibility to Yoani’s account, as it stated:

On Sunday, three state security officials waited for the women — just nine protesters in all — as they emerged from a Mass at the Santa Rita de Casia church in Havana’s leafy Miramar neighborhood.

There are more than nine Ladies in White, as you can see from visual evidence that has been posted on this blog before. The following is the account of what occurred as reported by the AP.

As the women emerged from church, a state-security agent confronted the group’s leader, Laura Pollan, stating:” Excuse me, Mrs. Laura Pollan,You did not inform us, so there will be no march.”

Pollan responded: “You need to show us a legal document”. Apparently, the State-official was not interested in arguing, as he responded: “You have been advised”, and then waved his hand in the air. Within seconds, two groups of counter-protesters descended on the women from both sides of the street, yelling and holding up a large Cuban flag.

Down with the worms!” “This street belongs to Fidel” they shouted, encircling the women and making it impossible to hear their shouts of “Freedom.”

The “waving of the hand” by the state official, combined with the immediate arrival of counter-protesters, is damning evidence that the “repudiations” are not, at all, spontaneous.

But, flying in the face of all logic, many people, especially in the U.S. and Europe, believe that these “repudios” are genuine and representative of the feelings of the majority of the Cuban people. In essence, these “believers” have been duped by the manipulations of Castro and co.

For example, if the Cuban State Security simply rounded up and transported the Damas, without any purported citizen “repudiation”, the only conclusion to draw would be that the Cuban government is wholly and completely repressing the basic freedoms of its citizens. And they are, regardless of the distorted picture they paint.

The Damas, surrounded by the counter-protesters, stood firm for two hours in front of the the church. In these two hours, they were the target of abuse from their captors: , such as “down with the worms” and “the streets are Fidel’s”. Eventually, the government sent a bus and coerced the women into leaving. The government had succeeded, at least partially; they prevented the Damas from conducting their peaceful march.

Raul and Fidel Castro, by cowardly attacking the Damas, have inflicted two crimes against humanity. First, the Castros  have purposefully and maliciously traumatized these women; they unjustly and forcefully stole away their loved ones, the political prisoners.

Second, the Castros have purposefully and maliciously stole away the only way in which, for the last 7 years, the Damas could protest the first crime committed against them; they unjustly and forcefully prevented, all the while launching verbal attacks, the Damas’ peaceful march to demand the release of their loved ones.

There are signs of that freedom is on the horizon for Cuba. When and if that freedom comes, the Damas will, contrary to how they are currently maligned, be a shining beacon of what all Humans should aspire to: freedom and peace.

I end with a letter to the Damas de Blanco. First, the English, then the Spanish.

Queridas Damas,

Your courage and commitment to achieve what is right in the face of the entire repressive regime of the Cuban government has deeply moved me. I stand here, in New York, in solidarity with you and your relatives and all Cubans who have been systematically traumatized in the name of a false salvation. God bless you and your families.

Traduccion: Queridas Damas,

Su coraje y dedicación para obtener lo que es justo ante  el sistema represivo del gobierno Cubano me ha afectado profundamente. Aquí, en Nueva York, les doy todo mi solidaridad a Uds. y sus familiares y todos los Cubanos que han sido traumatizado sistemáticamente en el nombre de un salvación falso. Que Dios les bendiga a Uds. y sus familias

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