Statement by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida in Honor of Laura Pollán, Founder of “Ladies in White”
October 17, 2011
Mr. President, I rise in recognition of Laura Pollán, who founded the group Damas de Blanco, or “Ladies in White,” to protest the Cuban regime’s jailing of 75 people in a crackdown on dissidents there in 2003. Many of the imprisoned were married to the “Ladies in White,” including Pollán’s own husband, Hector Maseda.
Since 2003, Laura gathered the group on most weekends in central Havana – everyone wearing white and holding gladiolas – to stage street marches and demand the release of their loved ones.
Damas de Blanco defied the regime. For its human rights work the European Parliament awarded the group the 2005 Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought. Just this year, the U.S. government gave Damas de Blanco the Human Rights Defender Award for “exceptional valor in protecting human rights in the face of government repression.”
Damas de Blanco succeeded earlier this year, when the last of the 75 were finally released in February – including Laura’s husband. They had only eight months together before she died of a heart attack last week.
Despite the group’s achievement, Laura Pollán lamented earlier this year that “as long as this government is around there will be prisoners. …while they’ve let some go, they’ve put others in jail. It is a never-ending story.”
Mr. President, it is a never-ending story. And in honor of Laura Pollán, we must not forget the Cuban regime still imprisons its political opponents. It still holds an American citizen there.
We must – like Damas de Blanco now says it will do – continue to challenge the regime, until the day that all the Cuban people are able to enjoy the blessings of freedom.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.