Cuban opposition group Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) has spoken out about the increased repression against political dissidents in Cuba since former U.S. President Barack Obama thawed relations with the island.
The group spoke about the worsening political situation during a press conference in Miami, Florida last week, El Nuevo Herald reports.
“We ask the international community to tell the Castro regime to stop repression in Cuba,” said Ladies in White member Maria Elena Alpizar.
According to members of the group, the repression of dissidents on the island has reportedly increased since Obama renewed relations with the Cuban government in 2014.
“We gave a report (to the Organization of American States) with all the human rights violations that have been committed against us over the past 95 Sundays,” Alpizar said, claiming that opponents of the regime have experienced some form of repression every weekend since Obama’s policy changes took effect.
“What is happening on the island is hard to handle . . . we have Ladies in White in prison, transferred to prisons in other provinces, our children are being imprisoned to weaken the movement,” said Leticia Ramos Herreria, another member of the group. “By arresting Ladies in White, high ranking officials in the regime have let us know that we already cease to exist . . . that we can’t continue on Cuban streets, that we must come to an end.”
The group believes that the Cuban government wants to “destroy” the organization. Herreria asked that the international community step up its oversight of the island. But despite the alleged repression they are suffering in the hands of Castro’s regime, members of the group said they will continue to be active on the streets and have no plans to stop demanding the freedom of political prisoners.
“Let it be very clear to the regime that we are willing to go to jail if necessary because we are not going to give up our fight . . . we will continue, no matter what,” Herreria said.
Ladies in White was founded in Cuba in 2003 by the wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed dissidents. The Cuban government reportedly arrested, tried, and sentenced 75 journalists and human rights activists to prison terms for “acts against the independence” of the island during that year.
The group protests the imprisonment of dissidents by attending mass every Sunday to pray and then walking to a nearby park dressed in white clothing. The color white is used by the group to symbolize peace and is reminiscent of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo of Argentina, who used a similar tactic to peacefully demand information from the military junta in the 70s.
Since 2010, members of the group have been arrested on several occasions as they marched through Havana after mass. 50 members were reportedly arrested by Cuban authorities in March last year, hours before Obama’s historic visit to Cuba