A group of mothers, wives and daughters who regularly protest in the streets of Cuba for political prisoners were recently subject to brutal suppression by the authorities and heckled by supporters of the Castro dictatorship. During the protests on March 18, Cuban police dragged the women by their hair and onto a bus, arresting around 30 protesters, among them older women, before driving away. Las Damas de Blanco, as the group of women is known, had planned a week-long series of protests to highlight the anniversary of Fidel Castro's 2003 Black Spring crackdown—a three-day span in March, 2003 when the Cuban government arrested 75 accused dissidents, 29 of whom were journalists. Also marching with Las Damas de Blanco was the mother of Orlando Zapata, a Cuban dissident arrested during the Black Spring crackdown who died last month after an 85-day prison hunger strike.
Today, President Obama called on the Castro regime to release all of the countries estimated 200 political prisoners, saying he was “deeply disturbed” by the recent atrocities. “These events underscore that instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era, Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist,” declared Obama.
The President wasn't the only one making a statement to the Cuban government. Singer Gloria Estefan held a march in Miami that drew thousands to Calle 8 in the Florida city in support of Las Damas de Blanco. "This shows we're one people. We are the people that love and defend freedom," Gloria told the gathered crowd. "Peace, love and freedom in the world. ¡Viva Cuba Libre! ¡Viva los Estado Unidos! May God bless this great nation that has allowed us to do this."
Andy Garcia and Shakira have joined Estefan in speaking out against the violence towards Las Damas de Blanco. Garcia is also planning a march in solidarity with the women to take place is Los Angeles California, this Sunday.