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Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Call to Action in Remembrance of Laura Inés Pollán Toledo

"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." - Laura Pollán

Laura Pollán, you stay with us...

We prayed for Laura Pollán to make a speedy recovery following the rapid onset of the illness but it was not to be. The illness claimed her life in the space of seven days. Cuba is governed by a dictatorship whose intelligence service was trained by the East German Stasi and that had close operational relations with the Soviet KGB.  The facts are that East German dissidents died of rare forms of cancers they believe had been given to them by the Stasi. Evidence gathered after the fall of the Berlin Wall indicates this to be the case. The Soviet KGB had also carried out similar practices. It is for this reason and the fact that the Ladies in White and their leadership poised an existential threat to the continued existence of the regime that many harbor suspicions surrounding the illness that took the life of this courageous woman. The dictatorship in Cuba is not blind to what happens in other parts of the world. How women in civil war torn Liberia not only brought and end to the bloody conflict using nonviolent means but also succeeded in removing from power the brutal dictator that had ruled the country for years: Charles Taylor. There is no concrete evidence but there is plenty of suspicion because the Cuban dictatorship has a long and bloody track record.

However, now is not the time to focus on how Laura Inés Pollán Toledo died but rather how she lived. She always embraced life not death. Refusing to engage in hunger strikes but remaining open to almost any other nonviolent tactic to pressure Cuban officials into freeing her husband and the rest of the Cuban political prisoners. Over time she evolved and came to the conclusion that for there to be an end to political prisoners in Cuba there needed to be a change of the entire system. Through the courageous actions and clear eyed strategic vision of the Ladies in White they played a decisive role in obtaining the freedom of the group of 75 imprisoned in March of 2003. The last of the prisoners were released in the Spring of 2011. The longest prison sentence had condemned Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia to spend 28 years of his life behind bars. If not for the Ladies in White and international solidarity campaigns the last of the Cuban Spring prisoners would not have been freed until 2031. A generation ago many Cuban political prisoners served out their 30 year sentences. If not for Laura and the Ladies in White it would be happening again now.

Laura Pollán may no longer physically be here with us but the Free Cuba Foundation makes the following proposal to people of good will everywhere. A call to action to let others know about Laura Pollán and the courageous Ladies in White. What they accomplished and how they went about it through strategic nonviolent resistance. Furthermore over twitter we observed that Yoani Sanchez has already designed and is wearing a t-shirt that she describes as a small tribute to Laura. Furthermore, that t-shirts be designed with the image of Laura Pollán prominently displayed with a quote by her consistent with her call for non-violent change in Cuba. Lets be ambassadors for the message and legacy of Laura Pollán around the world and inside of Cuba.

On the weekend that the Martin Luther King Jr. is finally being dedicated it is fitting that the world is also recognizing and honoring another human rights defender and icon of non-violent civil disobedience that is Laura Pollán. Martin Luther King Jr and Laura Pollan died before their time. Martin Luther King Jr. was just 39 when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Laura got sick and was hospitalized and over the course of a week her condition steadily deteriorated dying on October 15, 2011 at the age of 63. Despite their lives being shortened they managed to do so much with the little time they had. Let us remember and honor their courage, sacrifice and accomplishments.

Laura Pollan front and center with other Ladies in White

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