Monday, October 14, 2019

Remembering Laura Pollán, Cuba's Lady in White eight years after her untimely death

They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." - Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2010)

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, February 13, 1948 – October 14, 2011
Source: CubaBrief
Eight years ago today, Cuban opposition and human rights defender Laura Pollán died under circumstances that Cuban dissident and medical doctor Oscar Elias Biscet described as "death by purposeful medical neglect."
Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, a courageous woman spoke truth to power and protested in the streets of Cuba demanding an amnesty for Cuban political prisoners. She had been a school teacher, before her husband was jailed for his independent journalism in 2003. Laura was a figure greatly admired both inside and outside of the island.
However when one opposes the regime in Cuba not only is their physical life in danger, but their reputation is systematically slandered. The dictatorship claimed that she was a stateless "traitor." She became ill and died within the space of a week under circumstances that raise the question of foul play by the Castro tyranny. Following her death the official media began a campaign asserting that she was a common criminal.
Laura Pollán became a dissident when her husband was imprisoned during the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 along with more than 75 other activists and civil society members. She was one of the founders of the Ladies in White and challenged the Castro regime in the streets of Cuba. 


Following brutal repression, in an effort to prevent them from marching through the streets of Havana, Laura Pollan directly and nonviolently challenged the regime declaring, "we will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us."
Unfortunately beginning in 2010 a new and deadlier pattern of oppression presented itself with the extrajudicial death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
Today let us remember the words that Laura put into action and that was nonviolent resistance to tyranny.
"They tried to silence 75 voices, but now there are more than 75 voices shouting to the world the injustices the government has committed." (2004)
"We fight for the freedom of our husbands, the union of our families. We love our men." (2005)
"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." (2010)
"We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.” (September 24, 2011)
"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." (2011)
“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)
"We are not going to stop. If you have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close." (October 2, 2011)
"My life has changed a lot, now I have learned to love the country much more, the prisoners, the humanity. That's how I have so much work, that I don't have much time to think about myself, what really satisfies me, in short, I owe myself to other more important tasks. Now I understand much more, before I could not understand these things, you have to live and feel them to be able to dedicate soul heart and life to this beautiful cause." (2011)
The regime in Cuba is the most misogynist government in all of Latin America. Women who speak out and exercise their fundamental rights are regularly slandered, physically assaulted and sometimes die under suspicious circumstances as Laura did eight years ago today.

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