Cuba’s brave ‘Ladies in White’

From the Charleston, South Carolina Post & Courier:

Cuba’s brave ‘Ladies in White’

Raul Castro, Cuba’s successor to brother Fidel, has recently unleashed his thugs on women peacefully protesting Cuban human rights abuses. The brutal attacks completely undermine Mr. Castro’s attempt to appear moderate and will set back his carefully cultivated relationship with the European Union. Ultimately it could lead to a popular uprising.

The attacks are unconscionable, and betray a realistic fear that the Cuban public is fed up with Castroism and only lacks a spark to rise up against the geriatric dictatorship. The Cuban women’s protest movement could supply that needed spark.

Members and supporters of the “Ladies in White” human rights movement attempting to assemble for protests after church services in Santiago de Cuba have been physically attacked by Cuban government agents every Sunday from July 24 through Aug. 28.

The women are expected to exercise their right of peaceful protest again this Sunday.

But don’t expect eyewitness reports from the foreign press in Cuba. They are being kept away.

The most detailed account of the beatings is a report by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights on what happened Sunday, Aug. 7, in the vicinity of Santiago. It said state security officials and “Castro supporters” attacked women assembling for a protest march using “sticks and other blunt objects” causing “injuries, some considerable,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The women were forcibly taken by bus to the city outskirts and forced to walk back.

When some attempted another protest march the same afternoon they were again attacked.

Government bullies also broke into two homes of recently freed political activists who refused to be sent into exile as a condition of their freedom. The wife and daughter of former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer and four other people were sent to the hospital with contusions and broken bones, the Federation report said.

According to Cuban dissidents, similar harassments, arrests, beatings and home invasions have been experienced by demonstrators on each of the past six Sundays.

In Havana on Aug. 18, a government-inspired mob punched, slapped and kicked members of a Ladies in White march, spit on them, pulled their hair and ripped clothes. Several of the 42 marchers reported bruises, according to their spokeswoman, Berta Soler, who spoke with the Miami Herald.

The government tactics could quickly backfire. On Aug. 23, a crowd of Cubans gathered in front of the steps of the capitol building in Havana was recorded on video as it booed, hissed and insulted government agents forcibly dragging away four women protesters.

One of the women, Sara Marta Fonseca, a member of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, told a Spanish newspaper her hope is that “people will cross the barrier of fear and join the opposition to reclaim freedom.”

Thanks to the Ladies in White and their supporters, the Cuban people are one step closer to realizing that hope.