Ladies in White leader receives MDC award
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Berta Soler, the leader of the anti-Castro group Ladies in White, visited the Freedom Tower Monday to receive the Miami Dade College Presidential Medal.
The event is the latest stop in a world tour denouncing human rights violations in Cuba. "We're going to free and democratic countries looking for moral and spiritual support because we need freedom that is free of government," Soler said through a translator. "We need government that is dependent only on us Cubans."
Gloria Estefan welcomed Soler and two other members of the group, which is comprised of female relatives of jailed dissidents. "These women have to know that they're not alone," Estefan said, "because they're doing the difficult task."
Emilio Estefan agreed with his wife's assertion. "It's a historical moment," he said. "We're here to support them."
In March 2010, the Grammy-winning singer organized a peaceful demonstration that drew an estimated 250,000 people to Miami's Little Havana in protest of brutal beatings of the Ladies in White.
Obtaining travel visas after a policy change in Cuba, the women spoke to a crowd of several hundred exiles and Cuban Americans. Cuban American attendee Alex Gallardo said, "It's a good opportunity to see somebody who's fighting on the island for the cause of Cubans instead of all the lip service that we generally hear about in Miami."
Soler said she supports the U.S. embargo on the Caribbean island and added that recent policy changes in her native country are cosmetic. She also urged older exiles to keep the fight for freedom alive, a sentiment echoed by Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas. "If the rebellion of the exiles is transferred from generation to generation, they will never be able to win," Fariñas said in Spanish.
The event at the Freedom Tower coincided with the anniversary of Cuba's independence from Spain. Gloria Estefan added that the Ladies' visit will benefit the people currently living in Cuba. "Anytime that they can see what happens outside [Cuba], cause they've also been told for many years a lot of lies about the exile community and they bring a lot of truth back to Cuba as well," she said. "So I think it's important, every time we get that chance."
Soler and the other two members of the Ladies in White are expected to return to Cuba on May 27, uncertain of any backlash from President Raúl Castro's government following their worldwide tour.
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