The Ladies in White dissident group on Sunday paid tribute to former leader Laura Pollan on the first anniversary of her death on a day when they complained that Cuban authorities arrested at least 22 members of the group over the past few hours to prevent them from attending the ceremony or holding their own commemorations.
Some of the Ladies in White dedicated their regular peaceful Sunday march along Havana's Quinta Ave. to Pollan, a march otherwise dedicated to the furtherance of human rights on the communist-run island.
Pollan died on Oct. 14, 2011, at age 63 in a capital hospital due to inadequate lung function and complications from diabetes.
The group ended the march, which transpired without incident, with shouts of "Laura Pollan lives" and "Freedom" in front of the Santa Rita church.
"We Ladies in White are in mourning today, with much sadness but also with much strength because Laura, from where she is, is giving us a lot of strength ... She lights the road we are choosing for the freedom of the political prisoners, the freedom of the Cuban people and respect for human rights," Berta Soler, who assumed leadership of the group when Pollan died, told reporters.
Soler went on to say that the Cuban government had tried to block the tribute to Pollan over the past few hours by arresting at least 12 of the group's members in Havana, six in the central province of Villa Clara and four others in Matanzas.
Besides the arrests, Cuban security agents on Friday cordoned off the Havana street on which Pollan's home is located and government supporters organized a cultural celebration before the house to thwart the dissidents' activities.
Pollan, one of the founders of the Ladies in White, had been one of the most well-known and respected figures in the peaceful struggle to secure the releases of Cuban political prisoners and had led the female family members of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in the government's 2003 crackdown known as Black Spring. EFE