Monday, October 17, 2011


Laura Pollan Toledo was one of the cofounders of the Cuban opposition movement known as Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White). This group arose spontaneously after the arrests in Cuba's Black Spring, of 75 opponents to the regime of Fidel Castro. Women, wives, mothers, sisters and other female relatives of these peaceful men came together to demand their immediate release.

Laura is the wife of independent journalist and prisoner of conscience Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, imprisoned in the 2003 crackdown and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. She was a Professor of Spanish and literature, she worked until May 2004 when she left to fight for her husband's unjust imprisonment.

Laura has spoken out many times, explaining to the international community the repression prevailing in Cuba and denounced the inhuman conditions suffered by prisoners of conscience, deported to prisons far from their families, not receiving proper medical care and to be victims of cruel and degrading treatment.

The home of Laura is one of the meeting places of the Ladies in White. State Security knows this , so more than once Laura has found among her things hidden microphones. But she does not mind, in these five years of struggle for freedom for her husband and all Cuban prisoners of conscience, she and the other ladies have proved to be too brave to be intimidated with threats.

A courageous attitude has led them to confront a host of difficult situations. Insults, threats and smear campaigns released by the Cuban government made every day in their lives. On April 21, 2008, the world witnessed the violent eviction of a group of ladies who were protesting peacefully in the Revolution Square in Havana. Among them was Laura.

As a member of Las Damas de Blanco, Laura along with the other Ladies in White was honored with the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Human Rights in 2005, and in 2006 the prize from Human Rights First.

She contracted a viral infection that affected her lungs and was admitted to the Hospital "Calixto García" in Havana in were she contracted, a second virus that affected her kidneys and she also contracted dengue fever and died on Friday 14 October 2011 in the evening, leaving a deep emptiness and pain in the Cuban community and all lovers of freedom and democracy.

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