Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ladies in White Demand 'Firm Hand' Against Cuban Gov.

Ladies in White Demand 'Firm Hand' Against Cuban Gov.
April 26, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — Blanco Berta Soler, leader of Cuba's Ladies in White
movement, arrived in Washington on Thursday to tell "the truth about
Cuba" and ask for "moral and spiritual support" for her struggle against
Raul Castro's government, saying the United States should continue to
deal with Cuba with a "firm hand".

"We're looking for the moral and spiritual support of peace and
freedom-loving governments," Soler said during her opening remarks at a
gathering with Cuban-American senators Marco Rubio (Republican) and Bob
Menendez (Democrat), held in Capitol Hill.

Soler arrived at the meeting pronouncing an anti-Castro slogan ("A Cuba
without the Castros, a Free Cuba") and forming the letter "L" (for
"liberty") with her fingers, DPA News reported.

In her statements to the press, she accused the Cuban government of
"selling an image of Cuba to the outside world" which has nothing to do
with reality.

"I tell the true story about my country, because I am a woman who has to
endure abuse and beatings on a daily basis, for no other reason than
expressing my views and demanding the release of Cuba's political
prisoners," she declared.

"We want a Cuba with civil liberties, free and true elections, where
real changes take place (…) and we want a very firm hand against the
Castro regime," she added.

Following the meeting, Senator Menéndez affirmed that the testimony
offered by the Ladies in White is a confirmation of the need to maintain
the "firm hand" against the Castro government which Soler demands.

"Her message is crystal clear: they want a hard stance against the
Castro regime, which has implemented cosmetic changes in the country,
not real ones," he told reporters.

According to Menéndez, "the way to help activists like the Ladies in
White is to maintain economic pressures on the regime and to aid the
opposition within Cuba."

His Republican colleague, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, fully supports
this stance.

"We need a firm stance against the Cuban government, which takes
advantage of all funds it can get its hands on – not only through trade,
but also from trips to the country – to finance its repressive system,"
said Rubio, one of the politicians who criticized singers Beyonce and
Jay-Z most severely for traveling to Cuba as part of an "educational
exchange" program.

Following her visit to Capitol Hill, where she is to return on Friday to
hold a meeting with other Cuban-American members of Congress, Soler was
scheduled to attend a gathering at the US State Department, to pick up,
on behalf of the Ladies in White, a human rights award granted them in
2011, an award the Cuban dissidents had been unable to claim in person
until now.

With her visit to Washington, Soler has joined the wave of Cuban
dissidents who have availed themselves of the migratory reforms that
came into effect this year in Cuba and who have journeyed outside the
island after years being denied a travel permit.

In recent weeks, dissidents of the stature of blogger Yoani Sánchez and
the daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, Rosa María, toured the United
States to denounce human rights abuses in Cuba.

From Washington, Soler is to travel to Miami, where she will take part
in a "gathering" and "wake" which, according to the call for
participation, will honor the deceased Lady in White leader Laura Pollán
and those "martyrized and victimized by Castro's dictatorship in the
course of 54 years of totalitarian rule in Cuba."

According to the program, Coral Gables Mayor James Cason (the former top
diplomat at the US Interests Section in Havana) will bequeath Soler the
"key to the city", in acknowledgement of her work in Cuba.

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