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Cuban women mark human rights day

HAVANA – Cuba’s Ladies in White dissident group paid homage to its late leader while observing International Human Rights Day at her home Saturday, surrounded by a jeering pro-government crowd for a second straight day.

Photos of Laura Pollan and messages of condolence adorned the wall of the house where she lived in central Havana and which served as headquarters for the Ladies since the group was formed in 2003.

Next to a lit candle, an empty chair was draped with white clothing that belonged to Pollan. A single gladiolus and a tiny Cuban flag rested on the lap.

“Laura Pollan lives!” the Ladies cried, and “Freedom for political prisoners!”

Outside, dozens of supporters of President Raul Castro’s government massed at the front door and shouted revolutionary slogans and insults at the women inside.

The Ladies in White was founded in 2003 by Pollan and other wives of government opponents who were rounded up and given long prison terms in a crackdown on dissent.

The last of those prisoners still behind bars were released earlier this year, and many left the island for exile with their families.

Those still remaining in the Ladies in White have vowed to press for the release of other inmates who are serving time for politically motivated violent crimes like hijacking and sabotage.