Skip to main content

Cuban authorities release 'Ladies in White' marchers, dissident says

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
March 19, 2012 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Members of the
Members of the "Ladies in White" march every Sunday to protest against the Cuban government.
  • A dissident says all the "Ladies in White" who were detained Sunday have been released
  • Members of the group are relatives of Cuban dissidents
  • Their arrest comes a week before the pope's scheduled three-day visit
  • White House National Security Council: Cuba is using "tactics of intimidation" to "stifle dissent"

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban authorities have released dozens of members of the "Ladies in White" group after detaining them, a dissident said Monday.

All of the members of the group who were detained Sunday were released, said dissident Oscar Ernesto Chepe, who supports the group.

Cuba's official state-run media has not reported on the arrests, which occurred about a week before Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled visit to the island.

The organization, known as "Damas de Blanco" in Spanish, is composed of the family members of Cuban dissidents, many of whom have been jailed. Every Sunday, the women march silently from a Havana church to their homes to protest against the Cuban government.

The island's government has said the women are paid by the United States to create disturbances on the island.

"We were doing our march as we usually do when women dressed in civilian clothes stopped us," said group member Katia Sonia, who said she was among a group of 22 demonstrators arrested Sunday.

Sonia said the women were state security agents, who took the marchers to a police station for questioning.

Another 52 women from the group were arrested, she said, as they made their way to the Mass.

The arrests may have been the result of the group marching a few more blocks than they typically do, or because tensions before the pope arrives in Cuba are spurring a new crackdown, Sonia said Monday.

Last week 13 members of a dissident group were arrested after entering a Catholic church and refusing to leave until there were permitted an audience with the pope. The group was later arrested after church leaders failed to convince them to leave.

The Ladies in White have also asked to meet with the pope during his visit to Cuba. So far, no meetings with opposition groups are on the pope's schedule for his three-day trip, which includes two large public Masses.

A spokesman for the White House National Security Council accused Cuban authorities Monday of using "tactics of intimidation and harassment to stifle peaceful dissent" as the pope's visit nears.

"The detention of members of the Damas de Blanco this weekend in Havana in the lead up to Pope Benedict's visit underscores the disdain of Cuban authorities for the universal rights of the Cuban people," spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.