October 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Cuban protest group founder Pollan dies

Andrea Rodriguez Associated Press

(Full-size photo)

HAVANA – Cuban dissident Laura Pollan, who founded the opposition group Ladies in White and for nearly a decade staged weekly protest marches with other wives of political prisoners to press for their release, died Friday, her husband said. She was 63.

Hector Maseda said his wife died of a “cardiorespiratory attack” after doctors had tried for nearly an hour to revive her. Pollan had been in intensive care for acute respiratory problems since Oct. 7.

Pollan was one of the best-known and most vocal opposition figures in a country where those who dissent publicly risk reprisals or imprisonment. Even after the Ladies accomplished the goal for which they were founded – their husbands’ freedom – the group continued to protest against the government, which excoriated the women as traitors doing the bidding of the United States.

“She was a teacher and a housewife, but she became a leader for civil rights,” said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a prominent human rights activist on the island. “She has played a fundamental role, without a doubt even beyond winning freedom for her husband.”

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