What has long been a symbol of unity among human rights activists in Cuba now appears to be in the middle of a divisive crisis: Cubas dissident group Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) appears to be in the middle of a scandal involving infighting among its ranks.
“Down with the traitors! She needs to go! We dont want to hear her!” Those were the chants shouted by approximately 30 of the women, whos trademark garb is to wear all white attire they when they demonstrate in public against the Cuban government.
The chants are against one of their own, Alejandrina Garcia de la Riva, who remained cornered in the living room in which they me as she tried to get her own point across to the other Women in White. Most of her detractors had gathered in a small mob outside her house. Garcia de la Riva happens to be the founder of the group and is married to Diosdado Gonzalez Marrero, another political dissident who is serving a 20-year sentence for his political activities on the island.
Infighting among Damas de Blanco
I felt it was an act of repudiation against me, Garcia told Miami-based news blog CafeFuerte.com. I have no words to express what I went through that day.
The raucus that occurred inside and outside her home appears to have stemmed from differences between her and Berta Soler, the current leader of Damas de Blanco, as to how the organization should be run.
“Berta is destroying the movement with her attitude of not listening or tolerating any criticism; shes turned into a dictator, she went on to say in the same interview.
Oh the irony, it’s a group that is trying to fight the dictatorship set up by the Castro brothers. In a society where everyone has to watch their backs for state security agents who sometimes pass themselves off as civilians, spying on your every move, some have even suspected there might be a government mole working from inside Ladies in White to cause the disruption in their operations.
Inopportune time for conflict among the Ladies in White
Division among the ranks represents a double blow for Cubas dissident movement. Damas de Blanco remains one of the most united and visible forces internally and internationally among the voices of dissent against human rights abuses in Cuba. In a time when many dissident movements equate to not more than a lose network of activists who act alone or in small groups, Damas de Blanco represents strength in numbers. By doing anything that would splinter this group, you dissolve one of the few groups that is sizable in number.
The other problem the infighting poses is that with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, supporters of talks between Washington and Havana have high hopes that the voices of Damas de Blanco will no longer fall on deaf ears. However detentions on the island have reportedly been on the rise even before the historic talks between both countries were announced on the 17th of December, 2014.
Internal infighting and even the dissolution of Damas de Blanco could represent a huge threat to the advancement of human rights on the island.
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