HAVANA – The Ladies in White dissident group accused the Cuban government of “deceiving” and “playing” with the Catholic Church, Spain and the international community if on Sunday it does not release the 13 prisoners of conscience from the so-called “Group of 75” who still remain behind bars.
Laura Pollan, the spokesperson for the female relatives of political prisoners, made her comments on the day on which the deadline announced in Cuba for the release from prison of the 52 members of the Group of 75 expires. Of those 52, 39 have already been freed and traveled to Spain in recent months.
However, 13 members of that group – all 75 of whose original members have been designated prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International – who have been refusing to go into exile abroad as a condition for their release are still in prison.
In recent weeks, the Cuban government, without having completed all 52 releases it promised last July, has broadened the release program to include other prisoners who have not been adopted by Amnesty International but are considered to be “political” prisoners by human rights organizations and other groups.
The Ladies in White on Sunday demanded, after going to Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita church just like they do every week, that the Cuban government fulfill its commitment, and they were awaiting developments as they might unfold during the course of the day.
“By not complying, they’re not going to deceive us, the prisoners or the Cuban people as they are used to doing. They are deceiving and are playing with the Church as an institution, with the government of Spain, with the governments of the European Union and with the entire international community,” Pollan said.
“It would be a way to prove that they do not keep their word, that you can’t believe them,” she added, referring to the Havana regime.
Pollan also emphasized that the Ladies in White are not going to stop fighting “whether they let them go or not.”
“It’s not only our relatives. Many peaceful political prisoners still remain (behind bars) for whom we have to fight until they are free,” said Pollan, whose husband, Hector Maseda, is one of the 13 prisoners who refuse to go into exile.
The Ladies in White spokesperson went on to say that the Church and the Spanish Embassy in Cuba had asked her dissident group to keep their hopes up regarding the release of the 13.
“But they don’t know anything. You know how closed off this government is,” Pollan told international reporters.