Sunday, October 16, 2011

Laura Pollan; Cuban dissident who founded Ladies in White

Laura Pollan; Cuban dissident who founded Ladies in White
By Andrea Rodriguez
Associated Press / October 16, 2011

HAVANA - Cuban dissident Laura Pollan, who founded the opposition group
Ladies in White and who for nearly a decade staged weekly protest
marches with other wives of political prisoners to press for their
release, died Friday, her husband said. She was 63 and had suffered from
acute respiratory problems.

Mrs. Pollan was one of the best-known and most vocal opposition figures
in a country where those who dissent publicly risk reprisals or
imprisonment. Even after the Ladies accomplished the goal for which they
were founded - their husbands' freedom - the group continued to protest
against the government, which excoriated the women as traitors doing the
bidding of the United States.

"She was a teacher and a housewife, but she became a leader for civil
rights,'' said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation, a prominent human rights activist on
the island.

Before 2003 she was a nearly anonymous high school literature teacher.
She steered clear of politics and was reluctant about her husband's
dissident activities. Then the government struck with one of the biggest
crackdowns on dissent in decades, arresting her husband, Hector Maseda,
and 74 other activists, social commentators, and opposition leaders.

The arrests sparked the creation of the Ladies in White and began Mrs.
Pollan's transformation from activist's spouse to agitator in her own right.

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