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Cuba: Outpouring of Support for Las Damas’ Leader

Over the weekend, the leader of Cuba's Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White), Laura Pollan, fell ill. News of her hospitalization has come on the heels of successive weekends of the opposition group – along with other human rights activists – being targeted, allegedly on account of their anti-government protests.

Bloggers, both on the island and throughout the diaspora, reached out online to offer their support and wishes for Pollan's recovery.

Uncommon Sense spoke of Pollan's influence and courage in the fight for the rights of political prisoners in Cuba:

Pollan is one of the more fearless figures in the Cuban opposition, bravely leading the Damas on peaceful marches in Havana and other cities on behalf of their imprisoned loved ones and other political prisoners in Cuba. She has carried forth the group's campaign even after her husband, Hector Maseda, was released earlier this year after 8 years in prison.

Last month, Pollan and other Damas were attacked by a Castroite mob sent to block them from marching in Havana to commemorate a religious feast day. News coverage included a photograph of Pollan and another marcher being pushed against a wall by a mob.

Please keep this courageous woman and her family in your prayers.

Along the Malecon posted two updates yesterday: the first, a link of an interview with Pollan (before she fell ill) talking about the experiences Las Damas have endured in their fight. The post ends by saying:

Fellow members of Las Damas de Blanco marched on Sunday along Quinta Avenida in Havana and prayed for the dissident leader…they said Pollán was in intensive care with respiratory problems caused by an as-yet-unknown virus.

The blog's second update contains an interview with Pollan's husband, which Yoani Sanchez posted via twitpic. The blogger, Tracey Eaton, summed it up this way:

He said his overall impression after visiting Pollán was ‘very positive.’ Maseda is a former political prisoner whose imprisonment inspired Pollán to help start Las Damas de Blanco, dedicated to freeing all political prisoners.

In the face of limited information about Pollan's condition, words seemed inadequate; some bloggers simply posted photo tributes to the Las Damas leader.

Generation Y, though, thought it important to talk about the messages sent about activists like Laura Pollan through the state media and the seemingly increasing number of Cubans who choose not to believe them:

Cubans increasingly doubt what they are told, begin to read between the lines, and interpret, in reverse, information in the national media. The disbelief has gotten to the point where insult is deciphered as praise and vice versa. Those demonized by partisan publications are thus transformed into admired beings — albeit in a whisper — and even those fired from the government apparatus acquire a certain aura of appeal.

Knowing this peculiar phenomenon of reinterpretation, the number of people who have called me to ask about the health of Laura Pollan does not surprise me. The great number of friends and onlookers who have gathered outside the Calixto Garcia Hospital emergency room where she was admitted for acute respiratory distress is comforting. Considering all the insults, curses, and lies that have been launched against this woman on the official television, the reactions of so many Cubans in solidarity with her is a revelation. The dozens of text messages transmitting medical reports about the leader of the Ladies in White, the prayers at shrines throughout Cuba, and the encouragement from so many other peaceful activists, are the major silencers of this shrill character who — in our living rooms — launches into a tirade we no longer believe in.

Global Voices will post updates on Ms. Pollan's condition as they become available.

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