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Vice-President of the European Parliament visits the Ladies in White in Havana

2006-11-07 / Nikola Hořej

On Sunday October 29, Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament, visited Havana and met privately with the Ladies in White movement, an association of mothers, wives and sisters of Cuban political prisoners. In December 2005, the movement received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Speech from the European Parliament but the Cuban authorities denied its members exit visas to travel to the ceremony.

“It is lamentable that your relatives were imprisoned, but it is even more unacceptable that they are denied basic human rights,“ said Mr. McMillan-Scott. The meeting took place in the middle of badly maintained Central Havana in the house of Laura Pollan, wife of Hector Maseda Gutierrez, one of the 75 Cubans imprisoned during a massive crackdown in March 2003. Five representatives of the Ladies in White gathered in the house after their regular Sunday mass to receive personal congratulations and moral support from Mr. McMillan-Scott.
Mr. McMillan-Scott also met Oswaldo Payá Sardinas, the leader of Christian Liberation Movement, who introduced him to the outcomes of a public debate on the future of Cuba entitled the National Dialogue. Mr. Payá stressed “it is important to allow Cubans to think for themselves as they have learned to be passive and dependent on the state. If we plan our future ourselves, no one can decide for us.“
On Tuesday October 31, Mr. McMillan-Scott explored the possibilities of EU assistance to Cuban independent civil society with Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, economist and civil society leader. “Every Cuban has his own policeman inside and we face a lot of work to break this fear,“ said Ms. Roque.
Edward McMillan-Scott is the founder of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, now in the process of revision. “It has not been very successful in working in difficult countries, such as Burma, China, North Korea or Cuba,“ said McMillan-Scott, who is also a member of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba founded by Vaclav Havel after the 2003 arrests in Cuba.
According to human rights groups, Cuba has more than three hundred political prisoners - the second largest prison for journalists in the world – and systematically restricts free travel and access to the Internet.

For more information, please contact Mr. Nikola Hořejš at nikola.horejs@peopleinneed.cz or (+420) 226 200 462.

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