HAVANA – The Ladies in White, relatives of Cuban opposition figures imprisoned in 2003, were able to hold a peaceful march in this capital once again on Sunday, thanks to the mediation of the Catholic Church with President Raul Castro’s government, Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega said.
After three Sundays without being able to march, the Ladies in White and several followers called “support ladies,” a total of 12 women, made their habitual march, carrying gladioluses, after attending Mass at the Santa Rita Church, where Cardinal Ortega officiated.
Ortega said that he had taken the initiative of approaching the government after the incidents that occurred on the past two Sundays, when the Ladies were not only not able to march but were harassed by a hostile pro-government crowd, a situation that lasted some seven hours on April 25.
The cardinal said that, after his intervention, Cuban authorities asked him this past week to tell the Ladies in White that they would be allowed to march “promising that there will be no difficulty.”
“They told me that at least during the month of May (they will be able to march) and that we would see afterwards if everything had gone well and there hadn’t been anything strange occur,” Ortega said.
Ortega refused to speak about any “flexibility” in the government’s position, but he said that the gesture was “a different step, a slightly novel way of acting with respect to previous history,” adding that at other times the government had responded with “silence” to similar efforts to get it to allow the peaceful marches.
Ladies in White spokeswoman Laura Pollan, the wife of Hector Maseda, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for subversive activities, said what happened Sunday was a “small victory” that, however, only “halfway” satisfied the Ladies.
“Our greater satisfaction will be the day on which our relatives are free,” Pollan said, adding that the group will continue with its peaceful marches.