Lady in White
In the debate about whether the U.S. should end what is left of the embargo it has imposed against Cuba for the last half century, the side that wants to lift it often invokes the names of dissidents on the island who agree. But there are also Cuban dissidents who support the embargo because they fear that ending it would strengthen the dictatorship.
One of the most prominent supporters of the embargo was in Washington last week. She is Berta Soler, wife of former political prisoner Angel Moya and a member of the prestigious Ladies in White. Ms. Soler’s visit drew attention because what she lacks in support from Washington politicians and lobbyists who want to do business with the dictator she makes up for in moral authority.
Ms. Soler’s movement began in 2003 with a handful of women. Each Sunday they attended Mass together at St. Rita’s church and then, each carrying a single flower, they walked silently in the streets of Havana to demand the release of their husbands, brothers and sons who were political prisoners. It seemed like a suicide mission. For decades Cuban dissidents have met grisly ends. Many have been murdered, many more have been tortured in prison until they were broken.
Nevertheless the women were able to hold their ground thanks in part to the international recognition they got and the embarrassment they caused the regime. In 2005 they were awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, though they were denied permission to pick it up. When supporters wielding cell phones took photographs of pro-Castro mobs assaulting the women, the pictures went around the world, further revealing just how nasty and brutish life is in the revolutionary paradise.
In January the regime partially lifted its ban on Cubans traveling outside the island, and earlier this month Ms. Soler was finally given permission to travel with others from the group to Brussels to pick up their Sakharov prize. Then she headed to the U.S.
Last week in a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) Ms. Soler explained how important international support is to the cause of liberty in Cuba. “I am looking for moral and spiritual support from governments that love liberty, lovers of peace and from the international community,” she said. “The government of Cuba sells an image to foreigners and I bring the true history of my people, because I am a woman who has suffered day after day abuses, beatings only for having expressed myself.”
During her visit to Washington, Ms. Soler also alluded to the regime’s specious claims that the embargo is what makes Cuba poor: “First, I want to say that the embargo, the blockade, is inside Cuba.” As to the U.S. position, she said, “I respect the opinions of everyone in the world, but mine [and] that of the Ladies in White is don’t lift the embargo.”