Ladies in White Given Award by U.S. Government

As reported by EFE via Fox Latino:

Washington – Julia Nuñez, wife of former Cuban political prisoner Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, was here Thursday to receive a U.S. State Department Human Rights Award on behalf of the Ladies in White, a group comprising relatives of jailed dissidents.

In a moving ceremony that Nuñez attended dressed in white to recall her “Cuban sisters,” the under secretary for Political Affairs, William Burns, awarded the prize to the Ladies in White in recognition of their courage and their defense of human rights and democracy against a repressive government.

The group “distinguishes itself not only by the depth of its commitment to the release of political prisoners, but by the full measure of its bravery in defense of human rights in Cuba,” Burns said.

He said that the “Damas de Blanco,” as they are known in Spanish, helped create the conditions that led the Cuban government to release the “Group of 75” dissidents jailed in March 2003, including Nuñez’s husband.

Burns said that despite the situation on the Communist-ruled island that forces defenders of human rights to work underground, the Ladies in White continue “providing a poignant weekly reminder of the day-to-day repression that Cubans face.”

Since March 19, 2004, the Ladies in White have gone every Sunday to Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church, and afterwards stage a peaceful march in the streets nearby demanding the release of their loved ones.

The group was originally formed in 2003 following the sentences imposed on 75 dissidents in what came to be known as the “Black Spring.”

“It is very touching, not for me, because I’m already here, but for my Cuban sisters, the Ladies in White who remain in Cuba fighting for prisoners’ freedom,” Nuñez said.

She now lives in Miami with her husband, Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, who was released from jail in August 2010 as a result of the Spanish-backed dialogue between the Cuban regime and the Catholic Church that led to the release of the 52 members of the Group of 75 still in prison at the time.

Fernandez, who served 7 1/2 years of his sentence, told the press on Thursday after the ceremony that he was “very pleased” that his wife had received the prize “in the name of those who have written such a beautiful page in the history of Cuban women.”

“I can imagine how she feels and I know how this prize will be regarded there, as protection for those that are still there,” he said.

Fernandez recalled how worried he was last year in jail because of the repression against the Ladies in White after the death of Orlando Zapata, whom he called “our political-prisoner martyr,” who died after a hunger strike of 85 days demanding to be acknowledged a prisoner of conscience.

“That was the worst, because the violence against them in the streets intensified,” Fernandez said.

The Ladies in White earlier received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Liberty of Conscience.

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