Today, all of Cuba grieves for the passing of Laura Pollan, the co-founder of las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). For nearly a decade, she helped to stage weekly protests with other wives of political prisoners to press for their release. She never missed a week, regardless of whether it rained or if the island was awaiting the imminent arrival of a hurricane. She also never gave up hope that her voice, and the voices of so many other families, would be heard.
She was 63 years old when she passed from this world on Friday, October 14th. According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, she had been in intensive care for acute respiratory problems since October 7th.
As the head of the Commission said of her, "She was a teacher and a housewife, but she became a leader for civil rights. She has played a fundamental role, without a doubt even beyond winning freedom for her husband."
Indeed, it is true that few can remember a time when Pollan was seen wearing any colour other than white. But, before the Black Spring of 2003 that saw her husband and dozens upon dozens of other Cubans imprisoned on trumped up charges, Laura Pollan was a high school literature teacher who loved cats and plants. She steered clear of politics.
When she dared to speak out against her husband's imprisonment and to call for his release, the Cuban authorities labelled her a "traitor" and a "subversive agent" in the employ of the United States. Even under attacks by paramilitary forces, she and the other brave members of the Ladies in White have continued to march peacefully once a week, a silent and non-violent expression of resistance against a decaying dictatorship that stubbornly clings to power.
IFLRY stands in solidarity with the Ladies in White, the family of Laura Pollan, as well as all those who knew this courageous person, as they go through a difficult and trying time. Her loss is felt around the globe. But, as Laura Pollan passes from this world, she also leaves behind a powerful legacy. The weekly marches of las Damas de Blanco have secured the release of many political prisoners. The decision to continue, to carry on the legacy of Laura Pollan, is a welcome one.
On behalf of the IFLRY Cuba Programme Team, I commit myself to intensifying our efforts, to giving all that we can and all that we have in the struggle for a brighter future for Cuba and the Cuban people. Laura Pollan deserves no less from us.
IFLRY Cuba Programme Manager