Thursday, February 19, 2015

Exiled Ladies in White members demand leader’s resignation after YouTube video

Exiled Ladies in White members demand leader's resignation after YouTube
02/18/2015 7:38 PM 02/18/2015 11:07 PM

After appearing before two recent U.S. congressional hearings seeking
freedom for political prisoners and respect for human rights in Cuba,
the leader of Ladies in White now faces calls for her resignation from
exiled members of the organization.

The controversy began after a YouTube video was posted showing a large
group of Ladies in White members booing Alejandrina García de la Riva
and screaming "Down with traitors!" on Dec. 16 at the organization's
headquarters in Havana.

After entering the building, several women surrounded De La Riva,
yelling "traitor" as she remained silent.

De La Riva, who lives in Matanzas, is founder of the movement that was
originally started by wives and family members of the 75 dissidents
arrested during the spring of 2003. Her husband, Diosdado González
Marrero, was one of them, serving a 20-year prison sentence.

De La Riva had expressed disagreement with the direction of the
organization, headed by Berta Soler.

Sixteen founders of the movement who live in exile have signed a letter
asking Soler to resign and hold elections to give the group a new
direction because of the way De La Riva was treated. They called it "an
abominable act of repudiation."

Such actions are signs of "communist" and "fascist" behavior, they say,
"and not of people who fight for democracy and human rights."

The signers of the letter emphasized the "courageous trajectory" of De
La Riva "in the struggle to free all members of the group of 75," and
asked that all women who participated in the protest be expelled from
the organization.

In Miami, Aniley Puentes, one of the Ladies in White who signed the
letter, said that "it was not appropriate" for Soler to continue leading
the movement after "having thrown mud on the name of the Ladies in
White" with "this act of repudiation typical of Communist behavior."

Puentes, who left Cuba for Spain in 2010 with her husband, former
political prisoner Fidel Suárez Cruz, and a year later moved to Miami,
said that she was unaware how Soler was elected to head the movement
after the death of Laura Pollán in 2011.

"We don't know how Berta was elected," she said. "We were not consulted
and we don't know the way to hold an election in Cuba. If Berta resigns,
which I doubt, it must be a problem of the women there to hold an election."

Contacted by el Nuevo Herald, Soler dismissed the request for her
resignation. "Resign? Never," she said. "Those who really count here are
the women of the Ladies in White movement who live in Cuba, who are more
than 250, and they have not considered elections."

Soler said she "respected the freedom of expression of those women in
exile." She also acknowledged that "maybe the way [the protest] was done
was not correct," but that "it was not an act of repudiation against
Alejandrina de la Riva," but rather a "rejection, because we didn't want
to listen to her and she had been warned" that she had to wait for a
meeting with the national board to express her disagreement over Soler's

Soler said that De La Riva went to the movement's headquarters to
"provoke a situation" and also referred to the precedent set by the
State Security when they used members of opposing groups to attack their
leaders. Soler underlined that De La Riva had expressed her opinions
previously and that the rejection of her statements prompted the angry
reaction of the Ladies in White who were present.

"What would you do with a person who enters a place and is not accepted,
not wanted and is asked to leave?" Soler asked. "Call the police, beat
her, leave her alone or scream at her?"

Her husband, former political prisoner Ángel Moya, posted on YouTube
another clip from the incident where Soler and De La Riva argued over
the distribution of food and aid. One of the Ladies in White who was
present vehemently denied that Soler had left "food for the State
Security" at customs when she returned to Cuba from the United States,
as De La Riva claimed.

"It's important to watch the complete video," Soler said. "Because the
Cuban government only posted a clip to create confusion about the Ladies
in White."

It's not the only crisis facing the movement, which in 2005 was awarded
the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience.

In August, Eastern region representative Belkis Cantillo resigned after
clashing with Soler, which prompted about 30 women to leave the
organization and create a new movement named Citizens for Democracy.

Beyond internal conflicts and divisions, this incident points to a
deeper issue in the country's political life, says Sebastián Arcos,
former political prisoner and deputy director of Florida International
University's Cuban Research Institute.

"Three generations of Cubans have been living in a political environment
where debates have not existed and which constantly incites verbal
aggression," he said. "That is the political culture under which Cubans
have grown after 1959. It is not a heritage of the republic; it's a
heritage of the Castro regime."

Source: Exiled Ladies in White members demand leader's resignation after
YouTube video | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -

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