Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Outpouring of Support for Las Damas' Leader

Cuba: Outpouring of Support for Las Damas' Leader
Posted 10 October 2011 20:46 GMT
Written byJanine Mendes-Franco

Over the weekend, the leader of Cuba's Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies
in White), Laura Pollan, fell ill. News of her hospitalization has come
on the heels of successive weekends of the opposition group - along with
other human rights activists - being targeted, allegedly on account of
their anti-government protests.

Bloggers, both on the island and throughout the diaspora, reached out
online to offer their support and wishes for Pollan's recovery.

Uncommon Sense spoke of Pollan's influence and courage in the fight for
the rights of political prisoners in Cuba:

Pollan is one of the more fearless figures in the Cuban opposition,
bravely leading the Damas on peaceful marches in Havana and other cities
on behalf of their imprisoned loved ones and other political prisoners
in Cuba. She has carried forth the group's campaign even after her
husband, Hector Maseda, was released earlier this year after 8 years in

Last month, Pollan and other Damas were attacked by a Castroite mob
sent to block them from marching in Havana to commemorate a religious
feast day. News coverage included a photograph of Pollan and another
marcher being pushed against a wall by a mob.

Please keep this courageous woman and her family in your prayers.

Along the Malecon posted two updates yesterday: the first, a link of an
interview with Pollan (before she fell ill) talking about the
experiences Las Damas have endured in their fight. The post ends by saying:

Fellow members of Las Damas de Blanco marched on Sunday along
Quinta Avenida in Havana and prayed for the dissident leader…they said
Pollán was in intensive care with respiratory problems caused by an
as-yet-unknown virus.

The blog's second update contains an interview with Pollan's husband,
which Yoani Sanchez posted via twitpic. The blogger, Tracey Eaton,
summed it up this way:

He said his overall impression after visiting Pollán was 'very
positive.' Maseda is a former political prisoner whose imprisonment
inspired Pollán to help start Las Damas de Blanco, dedicated to freeing
all political prisoners.

In the face of limited information about Pollan's condition, words
seemed inadequate; some bloggers simply posted photo tributes to the Las
Damas leader.

Generation Y, though, thought it important to talk about the messages
sent about activists like Laura Pollan through the state media and the
seemingly increasing number of Cubans who choose not to believe them:

Cubans increasingly doubt what they are told, begin to read between
the lines, and interpret, in reverse, information in the national media.
The disbelief has gotten to the point where insult is deciphered as
praise and vice versa. Those demonized by partisan publications are thus
transformed into admired beings — albeit in a whisper — and even those
fired from the government apparatus acquire a certain aura of appeal.

Knowing this peculiar phenomenon of reinterpretation, the number of
people who have called me to ask about the health of Laura Pollan does
not surprise me. The great number of friends and onlookers who have
gathered outside the Calixto Garcia Hospital emergency room where she
was admitted for acute respiratory distress is comforting. Considering
all the insults, curses, and lies that have been launched against this
woman on the official television, the reactions of so many Cubans in
solidarity with her is a revelation. The dozens of text messages
transmitting medical reports about the leader of the Ladies in White,
the prayers at shrines throughout Cuba, and the encouragement from so
many other peaceful activists, are the major silencers of this shrill
character who — in our living rooms — launches into a tirade we no
longer believe in.

Global Voices will post updates on Ms. Pollan's condition as they become


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