The Ladies in White - Cuba's Women on the March

By Leonard Doyle
Friday 22 February 2008 20:19

The Ladies in White is a group of mothers, sisters and other relatives of those imprisoned for political reasons by Fidel Castro’s regime.

They walk to Mass in central Havana every Sunday, each wearing a badge bearing an image of their missing loved one, and are routinely harassed by government thugs and members of the security services. Their co-founder Miriam Leiva hopes that change is on the way now that Fidel Castro has finally stepped aside.

"Fidel Castro has been a master of deceit who has manipulated and intimidated the Cuban people for 50 years. Hopefully a new phase is beginning that will lead towards democracy," she said.

On Thursday the women gathered in central Havana to attend a Mass at the old Cathedral which was being said by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State who ranks second only to the Pope in the church hierarchy.

Fidel Castro’s crackdown on the Cuban opposition in March 2003 saw 75 dissidents rounded up, among them poets, intellectuals, trade union leaders and virtually the entire political opposition. Most were handed long sentences - ranging from 15 to 20 years - in some of the worst conditions anywhere in the world.

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