HAVANA TIMES — Blanco Berta Soler, leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White movement, arrived in Washington on Thursday to tell “the truth about Cuba” and ask for “moral and spiritual support” for her struggle against Raul Castro’s government, saying the United States should continue to deal with Cuba with a “firm hand”.
“We’re looking for the moral and spiritual support of peace and freedom-loving governments,” Soler said during her opening remarks at a gathering with Cuban-American senators Marco Rubio (Republican) and Bob Menendez (Democrat), held in Capitol Hill.
Soler arrived at the meeting pronouncing an anti-Castro slogan (“A Cuba without the Castros, a Free Cuba”) and forming the letter “L” (for “liberty”) with her fingers, DPA News reported.
In her statements to the press, she accused the Cuban government of “selling an image of Cuba to the outside world” which has nothing to do with reality.
“I tell the true story about my country, because I am a woman who has to endure abuse and beatings on a daily basis, for no other reason than expressing my views and demanding the release of Cuba’s political prisoners,” she declared.
“We want a Cuba with civil liberties, free and true elections, where real changes take place (…) and we want a very firm hand against the Castro regime,” she added.
Following the meeting, Senator Menéndez affirmed that the testimony offered by the Ladies in White is a confirmation of the need to maintain the “firm hand” against the Castro government which Soler demands.
“Her message is crystal clear: they want a hard stance against the Castro regime, which has implemented cosmetic changes in the country, not real ones,” he told reporters.
According to Menéndez, “the way to help activists like the Ladies in White is to maintain economic pressures on the regime and to aid the opposition within Cuba.”
His Republican colleague, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, fully supports this stance.
“We need a firm stance against the Cuban government, which takes advantage of all funds it can get its hands on – not only through trade, but also from trips to the country – to finance its repressive system,” said Rubio, one of the politicians who criticized singers Beyonce and Jay-Z most severely for traveling to Cuba as part of an “educational exchange” program.
Following her visit to Capitol Hill, where she is to return on Friday to hold a meeting with other Cuban-American members of Congress, Soler was scheduled to attend a gathering at the US State Department, to pick up, on behalf of the Ladies in White, a human rights award granted them in 2011, an award the Cuban dissidents had been unable to claim in person until now.
With her visit to Washington, Soler has joined the wave of Cuban dissidents who have availed themselves of the migratory reforms that came into effect this year in Cuba and who have journeyed outside the island after years being denied a travel permit.
In recent weeks, dissidents of the stature of blogger Yoani Sánchez and the daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, Rosa María, toured the United States to denounce human rights abuses in Cuba.
From Washington, Soler is to travel to Miami, where she will take part in a “gathering” and “wake” which, according to the call for participation, will honor the deceased Lady in White leader Laura Pollán and those “martyrized and victimized by Castro’s dictatorship in the course of 54 years of totalitarian rule in Cuba.”
According to the program, Coral Gables Mayor James Cason (the former top diplomat at the US Interests Section in Havana) will bequeath Soler the “key to the city”, in acknowledgement of her work in Cuba.