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Las Damas de BlancoLas Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White) is a peaceful civic movement of wives and female relatives advocating for the release of jailed political protestors in Cuba. The group has been active since 2003 and is internationally acclaimed for its dedication to human rights advocacy, having won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005. Currently, the movement is the subject of a resolution on the Senate calendar.

History of Las Damas de Blanco

Las Damas de Blanco formed in 2003 following an event known as the Black Spring. The Black Spring was a mass arrest of 75 journalists and political protestors in Cuba. Each of the arrested had either spoken out against the Castro regime or advocated for democracy in some way. The people arrested ranged from librarians to human rights activists who were all peaceful in the dissent and yet were arrested for threatening Cuban national security. In response to the arrests, the wives and sisters of the protestors decided to band together and form a countermovement. Every Sunday, the women gather and attend mass wearing white, and then, march silently through the streets. The white clothing symbolizes peace and the message is centered on family and freedom.

Overcoming Barriers

As a women-led movement, Las Damas de Blanco faces many challenges in its advocacy efforts. The movement is agitated by other citizens and particularly by Cuban authorities. The Cato Institute reports that the women “are routinely harassed, threatened, beaten and arrested” for the peaceful protest. Despite this, the movement has never weakened. The Ladies in White continue to march every Sunday and the members have brought global awareness to the issue. All 75 of the protestors arrested in the Black Spring were freed by 2011, in large part due to the efforts of the Ladies in White. The women-led movement still protests consistently and will not cease until all Cuban political prisoners are freed.

US Recognition

In March 2021, Sen. Mark Rubio introduced a resolution honoring Las Damas de Blanco and adding the Senate’s voice to the call for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba. The resolution acknowledges the efforts of the women-led movement and the Cuban regime’s consistent attacks on the movement. It particularly honors the legacy of the movement’s founder, Laura Ines Pollán Toledo, on human rights advocacy.

A more recent event highlighted in the resolution is the second arrest of Las Damas de Blanco member, Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, which took place in 2018 and resulted in Miranda developing a rare skin disease in prison. Miranda’s health deteriorated and she was hospitalized in Cuba for more than six months. In 2020, the U.S. government granted Miranda a humanitarian visa and transferred her to a hospital in Miami.

The resolution’s direct calls for the Cuban government to release all political prisoners and allow Las Damas de Blanco to attend mass in peace are vital actions of solidarity. If it is agreed to in the Senate, the resolution will further amplify the voices of Las Damas de Blanco and all peaceful Cuban dissidents hoping for liberty.

Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Economic_Freedom_Poverty
Poverty is a global issue affecting every nation on earth. Over the past hundred years, life expectancy ranged from 30 to 40 years for many people. And if they made it that far, often they did so without adequate food, clothing, and shelter. The past decade has seen massive reductions in the numbers of the global poor, but there is still much work to be done. Today, the number of people in the world living on less than $1 a day is down to around 20% and dropping.

Essential to reducing poverty is economic freedom. China and India have become leaders in economic enterprise and in improving the economic freedoms within their nations. As a result, they have seen millions of people lifted out of poverty. To back up the numbers, the Cato Institute and Canada’s Frazier Institute put out a report called the Economic Freedom of the World report. The study annually looks at five major indicators of economic freedom. Those indicators are size of government, legal system and property rights, sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation. From the indicators, the report lists 141 countries in terms of economic freedom.

The report has found that countries with higher levels of economic freedom grow more rapidly, have higher per capita incomes, and greater longevity than countries with lower levels of economic freedom. The top fifth of countries had per capita incomes seven times higher than the the bottom fifth and the results among the poor are significant. The poor in the bottom tenth in terms of economic freedom had incomes of $1,061 versus poor in the top tenth who had incomes around $8,735.

The report also pointed out that income inequality does not seem to be a factor in economic freedom. As a country becomes more free, the rich do not grow richer at the expense of the poor. Rather the poor also gain an advantage.  Economic freedom improves wealth which also improves health and mortality rates especially among women and children.

People are the solution to poverty and equal distribution of economic freedom will have a greater impact on reducing poverty than redistribution of wealth.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: The York Daily Record
Photo: The Guardian