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Posted on on August 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Extraordinary times in Cuba

Laura Pollan, leader of Las Damas de Blanco, marches along Quinta Avenida in Havana on Sunday.

There has been a flurry of news in Cuba. First came the Cuban government’s decision to release 52 political prisoners over the next three months. Then came the extradition of Francisco Chavez Abarca, a Salvadoran accused of carrying out violent attacks against Cuba.

More news came today when Fidel Castro’s photographer son Alex posted photos showing the former Cuban president visiting a research center in Havana. Alex Castro shot the pictures last week at the National Center for Scientific Investigation in Havana. One news report said Castro used a cell phone camera to take the pictures; I haven’t confirmed that.

Photos by Alex Castro. Source: CubaDebate

News of Fidel Castro’s rare public appearance comes days after the Cuban government said it would free 52 prisoners held since a government crackdown on dissidents in March 2003.
Guillermo Fariñas announced he’d end his 134-day hunger strike after Cuban authorities announced the release. Fariñas is a dissident and independent journalist in the central town of Santa Clara. He began his protest after dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February after an 86-day hunger strike.

More than a dozen reporters and photographers showed up to cover the Damas’ march on Sunday. The women marched without any interference. A passing motorist yelled something like, “Those people aren’t news.” Another shouted, “Mariconas,” which means lesbians.

The Damas kneeled in front of Santa Rita Church and prayed after finishing their march, then they chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” A few minutes later as they gathered at a nearby park and some of them repeated the chant. A man who was shooting video missed that shot and asked the Damas to repeat it. One prominent member of the group refused, saying that these chants “come from the soul” and aren’t meant to be repeated just because someone asks.

The cameraman asked if, well, the Damas could please be inspired again to feel it “from the soul.” More than a half dozen of the women complied, chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” once again, then told the cameraman that they hoped he was satisfied.

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