Berta Soler believes that conflicts in the group are due to ‘infiltrators’

Berta Soler in a file photo

Berta Soler in a file photo

(EFE) 21 March 2015 — The leader of the Cuban dissident movement Ladies in White,BertaSoler, is “convinced” that“Cuban State Security is hiding” behind the conflicts within the group and which led to the separation of some of its members.

Soler pointed to a History student, Alejandro Yañez, as the person who leaked a video that shows an angry internal conflict and stated that the one responsible for the leak is “someone sent by [Cuban] State Security” since 2007, to gather information and “promote misunderstandings in the group,” as affirmed by the newspaper El Nuevo Herald.

The incident earned the dissident criticisms, especially within the Cuban exile community in the United States, after which Soler decided to submit her leadership to a referendum held this month in Havana in which she was ratified as the movement’s leader.

“I think it doesn’t end because the Government has stuck its hands and body into this,” said Soler, who nevertheless affirmed that the experience taught her to rectify.

In the video in question, several members of the group, Soler among them, demonstrate with shouts against Alejandrina Garcia de la Riva, an activist who was “suspended” and who appeared at the group’s site as a “provocation.”

The leader of the movement also said that on her return to Havana she would personally deliver the keys to the group’s site to Laura María Labrada Pollán, daughter of Ladies in White founder, the deceased Laura Pollán, whose home has been the movement’s headquarters since its founding.

Last Thursday, Laura Labrada announced in Havana that she would create a foundation in honor of her mother and would not authorize Soler to use the name Laura Pollán, after criticizing the “unfortunate events that have raised questions” about the prestige of the organization.

Soler said she “respects” Labrada’s decision, and although the movement could continue to use its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Movement, she would not “get into this family problem.”

Soler said that “respect” the decision of Labrada, and although the movement could continue using its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Laura Movement, she will not “get involved in this family problem.”

“We are against the Cuban government, not against anyone of the people. Laura will always be present in us,” said Soler.

In the interview, the dissident preferred not to give details about the use of the 50,000 euros that the movement received from the European Parliament when, in 2013, it received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, among other reasons because she doesn’t want to “reveal information to the Cuban government nor to State Security.”

The people who have placed their trust and monetary incentives in the movement, “know how the money is used,” she added.

The “Ladies in White” movement was created by women members of the families of the 75 dissidents condemned to prison during the “Black Spring” of 2003 (now released), among whom are Angel Moya, Soler’s husband, and Hector Maseda, Pollán’s widower.

The Ladies in White Should Change Their Political Profile / Ivan Garcia

damas-de-blanco-por-la-quinta-avenida-_mn-620x330Ivan Garcia, 11 March 2015 — During the hot summer of 2013 I remember Blanca Reyes, wife of the poet and journalist Raul Rivero, writing letters to the pope in the Vatican, to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and to Nelson Mandela in South Africa, reminding them that Fidel Castro had sentenced Rivero to twenty years behind bars for writing without approval.

Reyes was speaking on behalf her husband and seventy-four other prisoners of conscience detained in March 2003. I saw up close the suffering of these women. At mid-morning, armed with baskets of food and toiletries, they traveled hundreds of kilometers to visit their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers in jail.

They were also prisoners of the system. Later they decided to organize. They were like a clan. Laura Pollán was a natural leader who began acting Continue reading

Laura Labrada and a Hundred Ladies in White Distance Themselves From Berta Soler / 14ymedio

Laura Labrada during the press conference at the headquarters of the Ladies in White (14ymedio)

Laura Labrada during the press conference at the headquarters of the Ladies in White (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2015 — In a press conference Thursday in Havana, the Lady in White Laura Labrada, daughter of the late Laura Pollán, announced the creation of a foundation with the name of her mother said she wouldn’t allow “Berta Soler to use the name of [her] mother in her movement.”

In a long document, read in front of independent journalists and foreign correspondents, Labrada accused Soler of poor leadership of the movement and “adopting irreverent conduct.” She added, “I respect from a distance what [Soler] does and her effort, for this she should use her own name, which history will view with mistrust.”

The foundation, which will be created shortly, will have as its objective support for the most disadvantaged people, according to Labrada, especially children and the elderly. During the round of questions, the Lady in White said that in making these decisions she counted on the support of “more than a hundred women,” belonging Continue reading

Berta Soler Confirmed as Leader of Ladies in White / 14ymedio

Ladies in White showing empty ballot box before voting. (14ymedio)

Ladies in White showing empty ballot box before voting. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 11 March 2015 – On Wednesday the Ladies in White confirmed the continuity of their current leader, Berta Soler, at the front of their movement with an overwhelming majority of 180 votes in favor with a total of 201 participants in the recall referendum. A total of 16 members of the group opted for change in leadership and three ballots were annulled while three were left blank; 32 members with the right to vote preferred not to do so.

On learning the outcome, the Ladies cheered Soler. The Matanzas delection, present at the site, read a statement in which they said they turned out in force for the consultation. The re-elected leader congratulated the entire organization for the referendum, those who said yes, who said no, and who annulled their ballots. The shock troops of the acts of repudiation did not appear. Continue reading

Berta Soler announces recall referendum on her tenure as head of the Ladies in White / 14ymedio

Berta Soler during Sunday's press conference (Photo: 14ymedio)

Berta Soler during Sunday’s press conference (Photo: 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2015 — During a press conference this afternoon, Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, announced that a recall referendum would be held within the organization to define her continuity at the head of this Human Rights movement.

Surrounded fifty Ladies in White, Soler read a statement to several foreign correspondents and independent media gathered near the Church of Santa Rita, in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar.

According to the activist, she will submit her leadership at the head of the organization to a recall referendum. The date of the consultation will be this coming March 16, but she did not detail how the procedure would be carried out.

In her statement, Berta Soler also invited the Ladies in White living in Miami who signed a letter last week asking for her resignation to “return to Cuba to fight.” Continue reading

US Congressional delegation meets with Cuban activists and independent journalists /14ymedio

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2015 — On Sunday afternoon a dozen activists and representatives of Cuban civil society met with the American congressional delegation visiting Cuba. Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, the group was able hear diverse opinions in response to the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between the two countries.

A member of the delegation confirmed that the Cuban authorities were aware of the meeting with the activists and had made known to the American side their displeasure with the meeting.

In a relaxed atmosphere, several of those present expressed the conviction that “this opens a new era” and demanded greater transparency in negotiations, according to what they themselves reported after the meeting. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, gave lawmakers a list with the names of 24 prisoners who, on humanitarian grounds, should be included in an upcoming release process. Continue reading

Several activists and Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of ’14ymedio’, arrested / 14ymedio

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The director of this newspaper, Yoani Sánchez, is under house arrest

14ymedio, Havana, 30 December 2014 – Contacted by phone at her home, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, explained the circumstances of the arrest of her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and of several other people this Tuesday in Havana. She is under house arrest. Patrol car No. 507 is stationed in front of the building where she lives, while four plainclothes offices are controlling the building entrances. Continue reading

Several Activists and Reinaldo Escobar, Editor-in-Chief of “14ymedio”, Arrested / Cubanet

Cubanet, 30 December 2014 — The activist Eliezer Ávila and journalist Reinaldo Escobar, Editor-in-chieft of the independent daily 14ymedio and husband of the blogger Yoani Sánchez, were arrested this morning at 11:40 am by members of the State Security outside the building where Escobar lives, according to the lawyer Laritza Diversent from Havana.

The source, after a telephone conversation with Yoani Sánchez, added that the patrol officers of car N.328, carried out the arrest violently. So far the whereabouts of detainees is not known. According to Yoani she was not allowed to leave her residence.

It is presumed that the authorities are trying to prevent the attendance of opposition figures at the performance of artist Tania Bruguera to be held this in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Also arrested were activists José Díaz Silva, leader of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic (MONR), and the Lady in White Lourdes Esquivel, according to the Twitter account the opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua.

At Least 34 Activists Detained In Cuba on Human Rights Day / 14ymedio

Ladies in White put in police cars. (14ymedio)

Ladies in White put in police cars. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, 10 December 2014 — At least 34 activists have been detained so far in various locations of the country on the occasion of the celebration of Human Rights Day this Wednesday. In Havana are reported some 20 arrests of opponents who tried to reach the meetings opposite the Yara room, one of the headquarters for the Havana Film Festival, which started six days ago. Among those are at least 18 Ladies in White and members of the New Republic movement, intercepted when they headed towards Vedado in order to participate in the announcement by Berta Soler and driven to the Calabazar zone. Before the arrests, some activists yelled, “Down with the dictatorship and long live human rights!” After the first arrests, dozens of Government partisans approached the place, yelling, “Long live Fidel, long live Raul!”

A reporter from 14ymedio, present at the location of the incidents, could confirm the detention of several Ladies in White who began to arrive, separately, to the well-known corner. At first, only civilians were seen, the so-called enraged people, awaiting the activists. However, as the time of the announcement approached, there appeared several uniformed officers and police cars. One of the women from this human rights defense group who managed to get to the place was forced into one of the cars.

Security agent Carlos Serpa Maceira, present at the location, has threatened Luzbely Escobar, one of the reporters for this daily, who took photographs of the arrests. After a three-hour detention, the journalist has been set free. Security agents, especially bothered by her participation in the Havana Film Festival and her credentials for press conferences, have warned her that she cannot “present herself as 14ymedio at official sites.” Another 14ymedio reporter, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, was also arrested on this day and freed on Wednesday night.

The downtown Havana corner of 23rd and L has dawned between expectation and the most absolute vigilance. The announcement several days ago by the Ladies in White to meet at this point of the city to commemorate Human Rights Day made the government activate all its machinery to prevent it. Last night a children’s activity at the Coppelia ice cream stand was announced on national television, a frequent practice used by authorities to neutralize dissident gatherings.

In the Calixto Garcia township in Holguin, some 20 Security agents do not let pass anyone who wanted to enter an activity about human rights.

In Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, only a dozen activists have managed to get to the place they had given as the location for celebrating Human Rights Day, while at least ten others have been arrested.

In Tunas Park, two dissidents have been arrested and many others have not been allowed to get to the house of David Gonzalez, where an event was going to be held in commemoration of the date.

At this time in Guantanamo, there are 35 activists at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and one detained. Some special troops from the Ministry of the Interior since last night have surrounded the Altamira neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba, where the headquarters of the organization is. Nevertheless, in the morning hours some activists have managed to get to the most important market of the city to share statements about human rights among attendees at the site and also were able to hold a brief ceremony in reference to the subject. In Altamira, barely five activists have been able to participate in an event by the organization because the police will not permit them to pass.

Gathering in Havana on Human Rights Day. (14ymedio)

Gathering in Havana on Human Rights Day. (14ymedio)

The foreign press was also present at the site, and several activists have loudly denounced surveillance around their homes. In Palmarito de Cauto, the meeting will be in the afternoon, but Security forces have been present since early in the day, since the Communist Party has organized a “people party” with beer provided, and no passage allowed, in order to occupy the dissident meeting places in the area. The officials have gathered several people across from the headquarters of UNPACU and threatened that if they do not remove posters alluding to the date, there will be reprisals like those of last Friday where there was much violence.

Several activities are planned for the next hours. On the Island of Juventud, in Nueva Gerona, an event will be held at 2 pm.

In Mella there is also found a strong police operation even though there are no activities scheduled.

Translated by MLK

Note: This is and updated and expanded version of information reported in a previous article published earlier in the police operation. 

Lady in White Sonia Garro and two other activists released / 14ymedio

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz (Archive photo)

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz (Archive photo)

14ymedio, Havana, 9 December 2014 — On the afternoon of Tuesday, 9 December, Sonia Garro, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz and Eugenio Hernández were released from prison and are now in their respective homes. In a clear political gesture, Raul Castro’s government has given way before national and international pressure demanding the immediate release of the Lady in White, her husband and others charged in the same case.

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio, Sonia Garro referred to health problems she has on leaving prison, and sent her thanks “to everyone who has supported me.” The Lady in White commented that she still doesn’t know the conditions of her new situation and that in the coming days she must report to the Sixth Police Station, in the Marianao municipality to learn more details.

The news was received a few hours before the worldwide commemoration of Human Rights Day, a date that Cuban activists remember with pilgrimages, meetings and street demonstrations. Every year the government unleashes a repressive wave around this time, which concludes with hundreds of detentions throughout the country, cuts in mobile phone service to block communications between dissidents, and a high number of house arrests.

For her part, Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, said that Garro and the other two activists received a change of custody conditions and as of today will not have to await trial in prison. This does not mean that the charges against them have been dropped or that their trials have been cancelled, she said. Soler also said that the movement she leads will continue to defend all those people who are political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. “We will maintain our morning demonstration on the corner of L and 23rd at eleven in the morning,” she concluded.

The detention of these three people had occurred during a demonstration by a group of Government supporters outside the home of Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González in March of 2012. The Government sympathizers, supported by State Security agents, tried to block the couple from participating in events to mark the anniversary of the crackdown on dissent (the Black Spring) that began on March 18, 2003 and resulted in the imprisonment of 75 peaceful activists.

The prosecutors accused Garro, Muñoz and Hernández of public disorder and attempted murder. Sonia Garro Alfonso also faces the additional charge of assault for alleged use of violence or intimidation against an agent of the State. Her trial had been postponed without explanation on three occasions, in November 2013, June 2014, and the latest delay in October 2014.

Amnesty International has long called for the trial to be held in accordance with international standards. This would include “ensuring the right of the accused to call witnesses and to challenge the evidence against them.”

Berta Soler: They Must Put An End To This / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Berta Coler, Leader of the Ladies in White

Berta Soler, Leader of the Ladies in White

14ymedio, Havana, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, 21 October 2014 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, has called for a vigil this October 21 in front of the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana. The reason is the new suspension of the trial of Sonia Garro.

Soler explained that there are “dubious things” in the way the authorities have handled this latest extension. “Sonia called to tell me that a captain had told her that the trial was suspended, but she did not believe it.” The activist also said that Sonia Garro’s defense lawyer “was unaware” of the decision. The new date for holding the criminal trial has been set for next November 7.

“We do not trust the Cuban Government, therefore the vigil goes on,” the leader of the Ladies in White told this newspaper. Soler does not rule out that “all this supposed suspension is for the purpose of demobilizing the people.” So, “we are going to be there anyway,” she announced.

There will also be a vigil in the interior of the country because it is expected that in front of the courts of Santiago de Cuba and other cities peaceful demonstrations similar to that in Havana will take place. The Diez de Octubre municipal court is at Juan Delgado and Patrocinio, and Berta Soler says that “the plan is to begin at 8:00 a.m. and last until noon. It depends on whether they let us or not.”

The activist also reported that “since this Saturday, State Security has reinforced vigilance over the Ladies in White.” This is the third time that they have suspended the trial of Sonia Garro. “They must to put an end to this,” she demands.

Translated by MLK

Declaration of Cuban Civil Society Activists Joining Forces in Madrid

ReunionenMadrid

Cuban activists meeting in Spain

Madrid, February 26, 2014

For recognition of the legitimacy of Cuba’s independent civil society

We, activists of independent civil society, have agreed to promote a representative group to act as a channel of dialogue with international institutions and other potential partners.

Since the ratification of our commitment to peaceful methods to achieve the Rule of Law, we demand from the government of Cuba and before the international community:

1.  The unconditional release of all political prisoners , including those under extra-penal license (on parole).
2.  The end of political repression, often violent, against the peaceful movement  for human rights and pro- democracy.
3.  Respect for the international commitments already entered into by the government of Cuba, the ratification – without reservations – of the International Covenants on Human Rights and compliance with ILO conventions on labor and trade union rights.
4.  Recognition of the legitimacy of independent Cuban civil society.

Subscribed:

Yoani Sánchez – Blogger

Berta Soler – Spokesperson of the Ladies in White

Elizardo Sanchez – President of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Cuban National Reconciliation

Juan Felipe Diaz Medina – Christian Liberation Movement (MCL )

Guillermo Fariñas – UNPACU

Manuel Cuesta Morúa – Progressive Arc

Reinaldo Escobar – Journalist

Antonio Guedes – President of Ibero American Association for Freedom (AIL)

Guillermo Gortázar – President of the Cuban Hispanic Foundation

Javier Larrondo – UNPACU Representative in Spain and EU

Virgilio Toledo – President of Coexistence Spain

Frisia Batista – President of Roots of Hope Spain

Elena Larrinaga – FECU

Alejandro González Raga – Cuban Observatory for Human Rights

Blanca Reyes – Ladies in White

Eduardo Pérez Bengoechea – Coordinator of International Human Rights Platform of Cuba

Tomás Muñoz and Oribe – Cuban Liberal Union