Laura Pollan


October 18, 2021

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (born February 13, 1948 in Manzanillo, Oriente; † October 14, 2011 in Havana) was a Cuban dissident and prominent human rights activist who died under previously unexplained circumstances. Opponents of the regime assume political murder. In 2003 Pollán co-founded the women's group Women in White, which publicly protested for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.


Laura Pollán worked in the state school system as a middle school teacher until she left her job in 2003. Her husband, Héctor Maseda, a nuclear engineer who had worked as a non-government journalist, had recently been arrested along with 74 other people in a wave of arrests against Cuban government critics, known internationally as the "Black Spring". Pollán said he had never been interested in politics until her husband was arrested. Outside of the institutions in which her husband was being held, Pollán met other wives and members of the Group of 75 and consulted with them about ways of joint protest. First, she joined the little-known, but already active, mother's committee Leonor Pérez for the freedom of political prisoners, whose relatives often attended mass on Sundays in the Catholic Church of Santa Rita in the Miramar district and raised their concerns there. When several dozen representatives of the dissidents arrested in March soon gathered for regular silent marches outside the church and established this as a permanent form of protest, the women's group Women in White was formed. Pollán became one of the most prominent spokespersons for the Ladies in White, especially after two leading members, Miriam Leiva and Blanca Reyes, left the inner circle of the group after the early release of their husbands Óscar Espinosa Chepe and Raúl Rivero in November 2004. When the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Ladies in White in 2005, Pollán was one of the five representatives selected by the group to travel to Strasbourg for the award ceremony. However, the government denied them permission to leave the country. In the following years, too, she was not allowed to attend subsequent awards ceremonies at the invitation of the European Parliament. In all of the government-controlled Cuban media, Laura Pollán was repeatedly attacked and presented as one of the most dangerous public enemies. These attacks increased after Pollán's husband was released on parole in February 2011 as one of the last members of the Group of 75 - without accepting travel into exile like the vast majority of former inmates. Pollán was referred to as a “ringleader”, “manipulative” and “involved in illegal business”. Her contacts with US diplomats and the acceptance of financial support from abroad were particularly emphasized. These were not denied by Pollán, who had no income in Cuba since she gave up teaching, but in the Cuban media the payments were portrayed as Pollán's main motivation and as evidence of her alleged activity as a “mercenary”, and she was also targeted against Cuba Linked to terrorism. Despite clear condemnations in the press and electronic media, Pollán has never been charged with any specific criminal offense. Pollán's centrally located apartment in the Centro Habana district became a frequent meeting place, also for women in white from other parts of the country. The apartment was also repeatedly targeted by Einsc

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