Catholic Church in Cuba Condemns Violence Against Ladies in White

The Catholic Church of Cuba stated on Monday its opposition of government supporter's hostile treatment toward Ladies in White, a dissident group in the communist country, saying violence against "defenseless persons" cannot be condoned.

Various dissident groups and activists have accused the government and its supporters of inciting attacks and arrests against dissidents in areas where groups are located and where they are known to protest. Once such location is Santiago de Cuba, where the dissident group Ladies in White has recently established a chapter.

The Cuban government, headed by Fidel Castro's brother, Raul Castro, denies ordering any attacks against dissents.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights, is convinced that orders of violence against anti-government activists would have come from the highest government officials, including President Castro.

"I am sure that General Raul Castro, at least, approved or gave the order to use force in the past few weeks," Sanchez told Reuters.

The Ladies in White is a group of women who protest on behalf of their dissident family members, many of whom were in prison for speaking out against the government.

The Ladies in White met with the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, last week in order to ask for the Catholic church's assistance in establishing negotiations with the Cuban government.

Cardinal Ortega previously aided the Ladies in 2010 by mediating an agreement with President Castro to allow the group to protest silently in Havana's Miramar section every Sunday.

The Ladies in White detailed to Reuter's that they were subjected to harassment when they attempted to protest in other locations. At their new location in Santiago de Cuba, the Ladies say members have been beaten and detained, and have also been gassed by police in an isolated incident.

In March 2003, a number of dissidents were imprisoned in a crackdown of activists the Cuban government believed to be mercenaries for the U.S. Seventy-five family members of the Ladies in White were apprehended during the raid.

This prompted the Ladies to begin their Sunday marches. Since then, 115 political prisoners, including their family members, have been freed.

However, the Ladies continue to protest for the freeing of 65 political detainees who remain imprisoned.