Mother of Cuban Prisoner of Conscience Faces Harrassment

August 17, 2010

Ladies in White march in Havana.

Every Sunday, Reina Luisa Tamayo goes to mass at the church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, and then, in memory of her deceased son, prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, she marches. But recently she has been repeatedly harassed by Cuban authorities and government supporters, in attempts to prevent her from remembering her son and continuing to protest the detention of political dissidents.

Tamayo and other women have been victim to harassment, intimidation, threats, and arbitrary detention by Cuban authorities and pro-government supporters. This past Sunday, August 15, government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending mass at the church. Today, Cuban police officers dragged protesters into vans and drove them away.

Reina Luisa Tamayo and many other protesters form the Ladies in White movement, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release. In remembrance of the mass detention of Cuban political activists, known as the ‘Black Spring’, where 75 activists were detained in 2003, the Ladies in White planned on marching for seven days but have been shouted down by pro-government supporters and intimidated from peacefully marching.

One of the 75 activists detained during the ‘Black Spring’ mass detention was Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died this February after an 85-day long hunger strike, protesting the detention of other prisoners of conscience. Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba’s jails. Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release in addition to the cessation of harassment of Reina Luisa Tamayo.