Monday, October 31, 2011

In Memoriam, Laura Pollán, a Leader of the Ladies in White

In 2003, the Castro government imprisoned 75 dissidents for political activity it deemed to be counterrevolutionary. Some of the prisoners were sentenced for terms as long as 28 years. There was an international condemnation of the Cuban government’s action. A group of women, the wives, mothers and sisters of the prisoners, began to demonstrate against their loved ones’ captivity, dressed in white. They became known as the Ladies in White. One of the leaders of the protest group, Laura Pollán, died on October 14th under mysterious circumstances. There is a website that discusses her contribution to political discourse in Cuba. See, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g_A8eF_HZRhDwGiOh3mSvNR2ZGOw?docId=f46b47b1913c49c2a176d4f4801e4420

That in turn has links to two YouTube videos showing the history of the movement. The bravery of these Ladies in White is an example for all who love freedom. The protests resulted in some of the prisoners being released. In 2010, the Catholic Church was instrumental in obtaining the release of the final 50. Even after all of the prisoners were let go, Laura Pollán and many of the other ladies in white continued to protest for political freedom. She died at age 63, according to the government of dengue fever and complications of her diabetes. So much for modern Cuban medicine.

There is reason to be suspicious of the cause of death, however. According to Mary O’Grady, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, whose reporting appears in Fausta’s Blog, http://faustasblog.com/?p=27773&cpage=1#comment-167152, the onset of her illness began on September 24 when Pollán was attacked leaving church by a mob. Her right arm was badly scratched, twisted and bitten. For the past year, the other members of the Ladies in White had complained being attacked and stuck with needles, causing them to feel nauseous, feverish and dizzy. Pollan complained of similar symptoms. She was treated at a hospital and released. Several days later, she complained of shortness of breath. She had chills and was vomiting. She was readmitted on October 7 and the next day was put in intensive care and put on a respirator. When her family went to visit, they were denied access until October 10th. Then, only her daughter was permitted to see her and she found that her mother’s bed was surrounded by state security operatives who appeared to monitor the activities of medical personnel. She died on October 14th. When her family went to view her body, it was again surrounded by state security personnel. A one hour wake at midnight was permitted, but that, too, was done in the presence of state security agents. I wonder what warranted the presence of state security during this final illness. Did the government fear she would recover, or did they want to make sure she didn’t?



The Ladies in White were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament, but were prohibited from traveling to Strasbourg, France to accept the award. For a general discussion of the Ladies in White movement, see the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladies_in_White

The middle class of Cuba who supported Fidel when Batista was in power were promised a return to Constitutional government and democratic freedoms. The Death of the White Rose is the story of that support and the eventual realization that the promises were empty and manipulative. After more than 52 years, those promises have yet to be kept.

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