Who Did Cuba’s Ladies in White Speak For?

Yusimi Rodriguez

The Ladies in White during a protest march in Havana. Photo: alongthemalecon.com

HAVANA TIMES — On Friday, I read in the Havana Times that the Ladies in White had asked the government of the United States to continue dealing with Cuba with a firm hand.

I can’t say I felt disappointment because, for that, I would have had to harbor expectations about the Ladies in White. What I can say, however, is that I’ve been going over this piece of news in my mind ever since.

I saw the Ladies in White for the first time in 2010. They were rallying along the length of Obispo street in Havana, preceded by a group of representatives of our “determined and embattled nation” (all of them women), who hurled all manner of insults and provocative slogans at them, such as “The last one to jump is a Yankee spy.” And of course, when someone yells that, you have to jump.

It was a grotesque spectacle. The Ladies in White paraded behind the mob, their heads high, carrying their gladiolus flowers. More than sympathy towards them, I felt shame for those who insulted them.

Then, I had no more reason to think the Ladies in White were mercenaries on the United States’ payroll than I do to believe that those of us who write for the Havana Times, and anyone who assumes a critical posture towards the Cuban government, are such turncoats.

Nothing, beyond the word of the Cuban government and its supporters, had ever been offered me as proof of the veracity of this accusation. At the time, thus, I respected the Ladies in White, just as I respect anyone who assumes the risks of confronting any authority, as they did. I did not recognize anyone’s right to use violence against them.

I saw the Ladies in White for the first time in 2010. They were rallying along the length of Obispo street in Havana, preceded by a group of representatives of our “determined and embattled nation” (all of them women), who hurled all manner of insults and provocative slogans at them, such as “The last one to jump is a Yankee spy.”

In 2012, I saw Berta Soler for the first time, in a Spanish documentary titled “Trimming the Revolution?” (“Recortando la Revolución?”), directed by Jordi Evole and Ramon Lara. In it, an interviewer asks Soler if the Ladies in White would be willing to protest against the U.S. embargo on Cuba as vehemently as they protest against the Cuban government.

The spokeswoman’s reply was that the Ladies in White did not meddle in politics (though, I must say that all of the arguments they used before and after the interview struck me as fairly political).

I couldn’t help but find some inconsistencies in their arguments. If they were being unjustly accused of serving the government of the United States, why evade the question of the embargo which that government subjects our country to? Despite this, I felt that any violent action against them was a violation of their legitimate human and civil rights.

Now, after reading that the Ladies in White called for a tough stance on Cuba, something which can only bring greater hardships to the Cuban people, I still do not recognize anyone’s right to attack them physically in any way.

Nothing justifies any act of violence against them. I respect their right to express such a view, guaranteed by their freedom of expression. But I am left with a question: In whose name, on behalf of what percent of the population, what sector of the Cuban people, did the Ladies in White make these demands?

Did they stop and think about the consequences that increased economic pressure from the US government would have on those who do not receive remittances or support from Cubans living abroad, as the Ladies in White do, according to Soler’s statements in the documentary I mentioned above?

The argument against the US embargo I have often heard is that it has not yielded the hoped-for results. This is true, as I’ve said in the past. But I am always left with a question: would the successful overthrow of the Cuban government justify its existence?

Did they stop and think about the consequences that increased economic pressure from the US government would have on those who do not receive remittances or support from Cubans living abroad, as the Ladies in White do, according to Soler’s statements in the documentary I mentioned above?

I feel absolutely no hatred towards the U.S. government. But, if you asked me what right I thought that government has to plan the overthrow of the Cuban government, I would tell you it’s the same right used by our country to intervene in the internal affairs of Venezuela (even when oil supplies and our precarious economy are at stake): None.

Cuba’s future must be the concern of Cubans alone.

I was also curious about one of the slogans touted by the Ladies in White: “A Cuba without the Castros is a Free Cuba,” as if having no one with that last name in power sufficed to ensure freedom and democracy in the country.

I feel, however, that the most serious repercussion from the demand of the Ladies in White is their discredit in the eyes of many Cubans (those who have access to the Internet and email accounts, at least), a condition that dissidents, the opposition and anyone who demands freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association and free elections in Cuba is invariably dragged into.

Our government and those who support it love to paint everyone with the same brush, to discredit their opponents without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves.

Now, unfortunately, they have arguments to tell people the following: “All who claim to struggle for freedom actually want the United States to tighten the embargo to bring our country to its knees through starvation and privation. That is the true agenda of the empire’s lackeys.”


51 thoughts on “Who Did Cuba’s Ladies in White Speak For?

  • May 21, 2013 at 9:20 am
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    Of course they need help from abroad, since they get so little at home. The current government’s predecessors were so vicious, homicidal, and utterly corrupt, and Cuban society so unequal and deprived, that the present situation is an enormous improvement; only foreigners imagine (through vanity, greed, malice and willful ignorance) that they could do better.

  • May 20, 2013 at 11:15 am
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    Las Damas Blancas have very short memories. How convenient. I don’t doubt that they are financed and supported in other ways by the U.S., who is spending tens of millions of dollars in precisely this kind of thing. Nevertheless, you are correct in insisting that their freedom of speech should not be limited (nor, in fact, does it seem to be). The real context here, though is an historical one. For all of the shortcomings of the Revolutionary government (and its massive and unprecedented achievements), those who wish it replaced cannot avoid the accusation that they would have liked life better under Batista or Machado, and that is utterly disgraceful.

  • May 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm
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    “….. to ensure freedom and democracy in the country.”

    “Freedom” and “Democracy” are not synonymous and are, in most cases, antagonistic concepts. The United States is a fine example of democracy, where the majority choose to restrict governance for the benefit, and discipline, of all. Minorities of any kind lack the engrained inclusion of other, less “democratic” political systems, one of which is the Cuban political system.

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