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Leading Dissident Group ‘Ladies In White’ Want A Cuba Without Castro

Leading Dissident Group 'Ladies In White' Want A Cuba Without Castro

Published April 28, 2013

Fox News Latino

CORAL GABLES, FL – APRIL 27: Berta Soler, co-founder of the Ladies in
White, and current leader of the Cuban opposition group leads a cheer as
she visits with Cuban exiles during an event at Merrick Park on April
27, 2013 in Coral Gables, Florida. In Cuba Soler?s group is made up of
wives and mothers and was formed in 2003 after the arrests of 75
government opponents. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (2013 Getty

While en route to accept Europe's top prize, the leader of a
leading Cuban dissidents group spoke strongly against the Castro
brothers to an exile community that received her message with
enthusiastic applause.

"We want a Cuba in which liberty exists," Berta Soler, co-founder of the
Ladies in White, said. "Where there is democracy. And where there is
respect for human rights. And also, we are fighting pacifically for a
Cuba without the Castros."

The wife of a former traveled to the United States
after receiving the Sakharov Prize with other members of the Ladies in
White Tuesday in Brussels. She met with Cuban-American political leaders
in Washington and spent Saturday uniting with exiles in Miami, where
nostalgia for Cuba still dominates many aspects of daily life.

Her visit comes shortly after that of two other prominent Cuban
dissidents, Yoani Sanchez and Rosa Maria Paya, the daughter of
, an opposition leader who was killed in a car last
year. All three have recently been allowed to after years of
being denied exit permits. In January, a new law scrapped the permit,
which Cuba had routinely denied to those considered

Soler accepted the prize in Brussels, eight years after it was awarded to the Ladies in White.

"I'm not here because of the migratory change, nor because of any good
gesture by the Cuban government," Soler said, speaking in a strong,
husky voice. "I'm here today because of international political

She called the economic and social reforms instituted by
"cosmetic." The changes have expanded private enterprise and legalized a
real estate market.

"They don't resolve the economic necessities of the people," said Soler,
dressed in a white shirt and skirt, her eyes painted with a sparkling
purple eye shadow.

Soler said Cuba is still a country where people go hungry and are
castigated and detained for expressing dissent. Not all Cubans have been
allowed to travel, including Soler's own husband, Angel Moya, who was
locked up for years in connection with his political activities.

Soler spoke at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the
of Miami. About a dozen previous members of the group now
living in the United States came dressed in white to greet her. Former
political prisoners and passionate exiles peppered her with questions
about conditions on the island.

The Ladies in White group was founded by wives and mothers of 75
government opponents in a crackdown on dissidents in the spring
of 2003. They marched together on Sundays, wore white to represent
peace, love and purity, and carried gladiolus flowers, calling for their
relatives' release. The Cuban government has detained the women from
time to time and sent crowds of government proponents to shout at them.
But their demonstrations proved successful. All of the political
prisoners arrested in the crackdown have been released.

A small core of the original group has continued to march nearly every
Sunday, joined by some who now have no relative that has been detained,
but simply are in agreement with their message. The Ladies have
struggled to find a new direction, but if Soler's speech was any
indication, the group has turned its focus to a larger cause calling for
democratic change and human rights on the island.

Soler said the members of her group have faced nearly every kind of
insult, from being spit at and harassed to hit and detained. She also
spoke about the discrimination faced by black Cubans. Blacks have long
been underprivileged in Cuba, something the revolution attempted to
rectify, though Soler said today they remain highly underrepresented in
the government, at universities and in well-paid jobs.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't lie," said Soler, who is black. "There's nothing to thank the revolution for."

The issue of black equality in Cuba recently resurfaced after the
publishing director of the influential, government-run Casa de las
Americas cultural institute was demoted to a lesser role following his
publication of an opinion piece in the New York Times that criticized
"blatant racism" on the island.

Soler spoke forcefully about her views on the U.S. against Cuba — she said the real blockade was the one inside Cuba.

"We are all Cubans and we all have the right to be in our country, no
matter what political ideology we defend," she said. "Cuba does not
belong to the Castros. It belongs to the Cubans."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.


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