Late Cuban Dissident's Daughter Breaks With Head of Ladies in White

The daughter of a founding member of Cuba's Ladies in White publicly split with their current leader Thursday in the latest sign of division within the dissident group, which a decade ago was awarded the European Union's top human rights prize.

Laura Maria Labrada, whose mother, Laura Pollan, was the Ladies' leader and public face before her death in 2011, criticized Berta Soler's management and the expulsion of group members.

"I have decided going forward to withdraw authorization for Berta Soler to use my mother's name or associate it with behavior that go against the principles she always defended," Labrada said at a news conference in her parents' Havana home.

She added that Soler may no longer use the house, which traditionally has been the Ladies' meeting place and headquarters.

Calls to Soler's cellphone rang unanswered Thursday. Her husband and fellow dissident, Angel Moya, said she was in Miami.

The split came weeks after video surfaced online showing group members allied to Soler shouting down another longtime member, Alejandrina Garcia, during a December gathering at the home.

"Down with traitors!" "She should leave!" and "We don't want to hear her!" they yelled at Garcia, who had also disagreed with Soler's leadership.

The scene resembled the "acts of repudiation" in which pro-government counter-protesters sometimes accost Cuba's dissidents, yelling revolutionary slogans and personal epithets.

Some Ladies in White living overseas called for a group election in response. Soler announced she would submit her leadership to a referendum among member still on the island, and last week she survived the vote.

Labrada alleged that since Soler took over in 2011, members have been mistreated and unfairly expelled. Like Garcia, she also criticized the inclusion of men in their protests.

Labrada said she has the support of 100 Ladies in White who are calling for an election, rather than a referendum, and the reincorporation of ousted members.

She also said she is considering starting a nonprofit foundation named after her mother to help needy children, abused women and the elderly.

Wives and mothers of 75 activists jailed in a 2003 crackdown on dissent formed the Ladies in White over a decade ago to press for their loved ones' release.

They became known for weekly marches along Havana's leafy 5th Avenue on Sundays after Mass, wearing white and carrying gladiolas.

The last of the 75 prisoners were released in recent years, and nearly all the original Ladies members have left the group.

With mostly new membership, the Ladies in White now protest to demand freedom for others they consider political prisoners and for democratic reform.

The government accuses dissidents of being traitors and "mercenaries" who accept money from abroad to undermine the revolution and Cuba's Communist system.

In 2015 the European Union awarded its Sakharov human rights prize to the group.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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