NED Medal Honoring Laura Pollán Presented in Havana
In an unprecedented act of international solidarity, the National Endowment for Democracy presented its Democracy Service medal to the family and colleagues of Laura Pollán in Havana.
Vice-Chair of NED’s Board of Directors Judy Shelton visited Cuba in March 2012, delivering the Democracy Service Medal awarded by NED to the late Laura Pollán and the Damas de Blanco last December. Shelton presented it in person to Berta Soler, the leader of the Damas de Blanco movement founded by Laura Pollán; Héctor Maseda Guitiérrez, Pollán’s widower and a journalist who spent eight years imprisoned by the Cuban government; and Laura Labrada Pollán, Pollán’s daughter and a member of the Damas de Blanco.
While the Ladies are the frequent focus of international recognition, this is the first time that an international organization has honored them in their own country. The presentation in Havana was an important act of solidarity with the Damas de Blanco at a time when they and other activists face heightened repression and physical attacks.
Pollán founded the Damas de Blanco when her husband was arrested along with 74 others in the “Black Spring” of 2003, rallying other women whose loved ones had been imprisoned. The women held weekly marches, dressed in white to symbolize the purity of their motives and carrying gladioli. She passed away on Oct. 14, 2011, several weeks after the Damas de Blanco were attacked by a mob. She was posthumously honored with the Democracy Service Medal at a special Capitol Hill ceremony on December 14, 2011, which Soler, Maseda and Labrada Pollán joined by teleconference.