WASHINGTON – The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, hoped for more from U.S. President Barack Obama during and after his recent visit to Cuba and now is asking him to set conditions on the island’s government by making an “energetic” statement demanding the cessation of police violence and establishing a general amnesty for political prisoners.
“We want the U.S. government to set conditions on the Cuban government, and what we’re seeing is that the it’s the Cuban (government) that is setting the conditions, and publicly, with the embargo, the Guantanamo naval base, while the U.S. (government) is giving concessions and (other) things in exchange for nothing,” she said in an interview with EFE in Washington.
Soler, one of the best-known figures within the Cuban dissident movement, this week traveled to the U.S. capital to denounce the increase in repression on the island in a hearing before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
During her five-day visit she also met with U.S. State Department officials, senators, university students and attorneys with the Commission to ask them to pressure the Cuban government to halt police violence, which “increased before, during and after Obama’s visit.”
“The Cuban government sent a very clear message that ‘I am in charge here’ and so police violence resurged. (If the government is pressured) perhaps it will not halt the arbitrary arrests, but certainly these serious beatings we’re receiving,” she said.
Over the past 10 months, the traditional peaceful Sunday march by the Ladies in White in Havana has frequently ended with arrests, including on March 20 just a few hours before Obama’s arrival on the communist island for his historic visit.
Soler participated in Obama’s meeting in Havana with a group of dissidents and representatives of independent civil society, an occasion on which she made several requests of the president that she is still waiting to see fulfilled.
“We hoped for much more (from Obama’s visit), there were very nice words ... but it was very necessary to energetically speak out for the cessation of police violence and for a general amnesty for political prisoners. We didn’t see that, and we mentioned it in our meeting,” she said.