Today on March 20, 2016 in Havana, Cuba, groups of people are calling out “¡Libertad!” while waiting President Obama’s arrival to his history-making trip to the island. These people; however, are not looking at Obama as their savior. They are begging for Obama not to back the dictatorship.
The Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) are a dissident group who faithfully and silently protest every Sunday after Mass demanding the freedom of their sons, husbands, and brothers who are currently imprisoned because of fighting against the Castro regime. Today, they waved palm branches in honor of Palm Sunday as the police and paramilitary violently hauled them off out of the public square. The women were joined with other protestors also wearing white carrying posters with the social media campaign #TodosMarchamos.
The president said he would meet with the dissident community as a part of his travel agenda but at the same time, those same people are the ones being silenced as he makes his visit for the next two days.
Making peace with a government isn’t complete until the citizens of the country can live without fearing for their lives for speaking their minds. The most media coverage over the dissidents’ protests is happening through Twitter. Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the late dissident Oswaldo Paya, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post back in December 2014 after the president announced his willingness to open up relations with Cuba.
“We want changes in the law that will guarantee freedom of expression and association, the release of political prisoners, the right to own private enterprises, and free and plural elections,” Paya wrote in her op-ed. “I take you at your word, Mr. President. The answer to you and all to the world’s democratic government is: support the implementation of a plebiscite for free and pluralistic elections in Cuba; and support citizen participation in the democratic process. The only thing that will guarantee the end of totalitarianism in Cuba.”
To read the full letter that Rosa Maria Paya wrote, go here https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/heres-what-cuba-really-needs-mr-obama/2014/12/19/89aefa06-8790-11e4-b9b7-b8632ae73d25_story.html?postshare=3561458374798554&tid=ss_tw.