For Immediate Release: October 17, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today praised the courageous leadership of Laura Pollán, founder of Cuba’s Ladies in White, or las Damas de Blanco, who passed away on October 14. Pollán founded the organization following the Cuban government’s 2003 arrests of 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and librarians who were then summarily tried and sentenced to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The Ladies in White is made up of wives, daughters, and relatives of these political prisoners.
“Laura Pollán’s silent protests spoke volumes about the injustices of the Castro regime,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “She was a powerful and eloquent symbol of the quest for peaceful, democratic change in Cuba. We are saddened by her death, but we continue to be inspired by her life and by the Ladies in White. We pledge to champion justice and freedom for all who, like Laura, persevere in the face of persistent threats, insults, and government attempts to silence their work.”
Human Rights First honored the Ladies in White during its 2006 human rights awards dinner for their persistent and peaceful demands that the Cuban government respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. Every Sunday, dressed in white, the women meet at mass in the Santa Rita church and then walk down Fifth Avenue in Havana in silent protest of the unjust incarceration of their relatives. Since the organization was founded, the Cuban government has tried to force them to abandon their protests, but the Ladies in White have remained unrelenting in seeking the unconditional release of all political prisoners.