Havana, Cuba (PanAm) – In 2003, independent libraries, media outlets, and the Varela Project began gaining traction among Cuban citizens. The project’s goal was to circulate proposals for a range of constitutional, democratic reforms within an existing legal framework.
The Cuban regime naturally interpreted this phenomenon as a serious threat. No surprise really, since this is the way dictatorships often behave. Anything that arises from the free will of the people, and outside the regime’s control, is considered illegal and potentially lethal to the dictatorship.
This is how 75 peaceful, kind, well-mannered citizens came to be arrested, summarily convicted, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms — some as long as 28 years.
The charges? Nothing more than the “attempt against the independence and integrity of the country.” Absolutely horrifying. It’s not for nothing that this tragic crackdown on dissidents came be to known as Cuba’s “Black Spring.”
And this is how the Ladies in White were formed. They are the wives and relatives of the 75 Cubans who were unjustly arrested, and who were declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International shortly thereafter.
For the last 12 years, these brave women have held peaceful street demonstrations every Sunday after church. Armed with only a single flower in one hand, they march for the freedom of political prisoners, justice, and peace.
How do you think the Cuban government has reacted? This bloodthirsty dictatorship, which some people still cynically praise, has responded with further repression, threats, and arbitrary arrests.
So, while you rest with your families each Sunday, and deservingly so, remember that these brave, defenseless women continue to be assaulted, threatened, arrested, and forcefully taken to what was previously a José Martí pioneer camp, now converted into a detention center.
How long will we allow this to go on? It’s time we put a stop to this disgrace.
Only when we unite our voices and demand justice will the freedom these women are fighting for in Cuba become a reality.
Until next time, if the dictatorship allows it.