By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — They dress in white. On Sunday, they go to the church, the Our Lady of Charity Church on Salud Street. They come out as a procession, stop at a street corner, yell out some slogans, hand out anti-government propaganda and leave. Curious onlookers, almost entirely misinformed about them, identify them as the Ladies in White.
Something different about the situation does strike the eye, though: there are no police officers surrounding them and no reprisal brigades attacking them. The violence that typically accompanies Bertha Soler’s Todos Marchamos initiatives and her Ladies in White, as they stroll down Havana’s 5th Avenue – the real and dangerous Ladies in White, according to the political standards set down by the Cuban Communist Party – is nowhere to be seen.
The grassroots movement created by Laura Pollan split up after she passed away, when her daughter decided to expel the radical majority led by Bertha from the movement’s Centro Habana headquarters. Soler had been the founding mother’s right-hand woman, back in the days when the non-violent group of women, who protested holding flowers in their hands, had won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.
On Sunday, April 3, mass at the Basilica Menor ended at noon with a full house. Some of these “other” Ladies in White, 10 of them, perhaps, were praying inside while a group of about the same size waited outside, on the sidewalk across the street from the main entrance. They began to gather into a group and to form a two-person line before heading down Salud Street towards Galiano.
They walked three blocks. Little by little, the procession – followed by the ever-present cell phones and a journalist with better photo equipment – began to break up. When they reached Galiano, only 10 or 12 of them were left in the group, while a few others cut across the Curita park.
The journalist began a brief interview with one of them. In the end, they raised their fists and yelled “Laura Pollan lives! Huber Matos lives!” Those next to the interviewee repeated this several times.
At a nearby corner, other members of the group were handing out DVDs and a printed sheet of paper, titled “The New Republic.” It’s the weekly bulletin of the organization Cuba Independiente y Democratica (“Independent and Democratic Cuba”).
The DVD is a weekly compilation of materials prepared by TV Marti, whose signal one cannot directly get in Cuba because of the intense interference put up by the Cuban State.
And, just like that, everyone went home. Everything remained peaceful, as was the case the previous Sundays and as will likely be the case in Sundays to come.
That same day, new beatings and arrests descended upon the other Ladies in White, those that protest down 5th Avenue. Apparently, they continue to be the government’s public enemy number one.
Vicente Morin Aguado. [email protected]