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Ladies in White resign over alleged State Security infiltrator

Posted on Saturday, 07.06.13

Ladies in White resign over alleged State Security infiltrator
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

At least 18 members have quit Cuba’s dissident Ladies in White in the
eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Top opposition leader Jose Daniel
Ferrer has been accused of treating a black supporter like a slave. And
Ferrer has split from his wife of 20 years.

The two most aggressive opposition movements in eastern Cuba appear to
be going through a rough period in recent weeks, forced to deny serious
allegations and even hanging up the phone on usually friendly Miami news
media.

But dissidents say their troubles are the work of infiltrators from the
State Security apparatus in the communist-ruled island, tasked with
fueling the jealousies and rivalries that have long riven the
opposition, and creating new ones.

“It is very, very clear that all of this comes from people who have a
job to do for the political police,” said Ferrer, who served eight years
as a political prisoner, was freed in 2011 and is now one of the
island’s most respected opposition activists.

The group he founded, the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), is the most
combative dissident faction in Santiago. Earlier this year it forged a
national alliance with Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European
Parliament’s $67,000 Sakharov prize.

Authorities meanwhile have repeatedly cracked down on the Santiago
branch of the Ladies in White as they push to win the same right to
stage public protests as their counterparts in Havana, who march along
an avenue after Sunday Mass.

At the root of the split within the Ladies in White is a push by several
members to expel a woman repeatedly accused of being a State Security
infiltrator and inventing gossip about infidelities by the group’s
members or their husbands.

Group leader Berta Soler in Havana acknowledged that she and Santiago
leader Belkis Cantillo opposed expelling the woman during a June 18
meeting in Santiago because it would be essentially undemocratic to
drive her out without hard evidence.

“We are learning each day how to live with infiltrators. It does not
worry us,” Soler told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. “We are not
going to waste the time that must be used to continue working for human
rights.”

In a statement issued June 30, Soler had declared: “We will not fall
into the foolish game of you tell me and I tell you … There are no
proofs that she is an agent … so she will continue being a member until
it is proven.”

That statement acknowledged that 18 Ladies in White in Santiago had
resigned. Ferrer, who is married to Cantillo, said last week that the
number of resignations had climbed to 27. Several calls to Cantillo’s
cellphone went unanswered.

Ferrer said he separated from Cantillo after 20 years of marriage
because of her attitude toward some of the Ladies in White who want to
expel the alleged infiltrator. The women who resigned remain members of
UNPACU, he said.

State Security agents have repeatedly infiltrated and in some cases
founded opposition movements during the five decades of Castro rule, to
spy on the groups and exacerbate the many rivalries and tensions that
have historically hit the dissident movements.

Soler and Cantillo returned to Cuba in May after a lengthy trip abroad
during which they received a hero’s welcome in the United States and
Europe and collected more than $65,000 — a fortune by island standards —
in prizes and donations.

The alleged infiltrator not only spread the gossip about infidelities
but sold end-of-year school exams and offered to obtain U.S. visas for
$3,000, two Ladies in White said, both crimes that real dissidents know
too well would immediately land them in jail.

“Since she joined us [in August] the bickering started. We have no
doubts about her,” said Yelena Garcés, who with her sister Aimee led the
group of women that resigned.

“We have no doubts that she and her husband work for the political
police, and that their principal mission … is to divide” the opposition,
Ferrer said by phone from his home in the small Santiago town of
Palmarito de Cauto.

Ferrer said UNPACU expelled the woman several months ago, but the Ladies
in White remain “incapable of realizing that she … is creating
problems.” El Nuevo knows her name, but will not print it because it has
been unable to reach her for comment.

Some of the women who resigned said Soler made the dispute worse during
the June 18 meeting by telephoning the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana
to report their separation, a call they took as a threat to deny them
U.S. visas. Soler told El Nuevo she would not comment on that
allegation. Radio Martí reported last week that she hung up when one of
its reporters asked her about it.

The Ladies in White was founded by female relatives of 75 dissidents
jailed during a 2003 crackdown to demand their freedom. The government
freed the last of the 75 still in prison in 2010-2011 — but forced most
to go into exile in Spain.

Only a dozen insisted on staying in Cuba to continue their opposition
activism, including Ferrer and Angel Moya, Soler’s husband. The Ladies
in White vowed to remain together to push for human rights and democracy.

Ferrer himself as come under harsh attacks from Raumel Vinajera, a
former UNPACU activist now living in the United States who has accused
him of being a “slave keeper” and stealing money donated for the
opposition movement.

A photo of Vinajera, who is black, holding an umbrella over the
light-skinned Ferrer while the UNPACU leader speaks on a cellphone has
been spread on the Internet, especially by Ernesto Vera, a Santiago
lawyer and self-described dissident who regularly attacks UNPACU, the
Ladies in White and blogger Yoani Sanchez.

Ferrer said the photo was snapped when it was raining and he went to his
patio to get better reception on his cellphone. He added that police
seized that photo and several others during a raid of his home in July
of last year.

Source: “Ladies in White resign over alleged State Security infiltrator
– Cuba – MiamiHerald.com” –
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/06/v-fullstory/3488189/ladies-in-white-resign-over-alleged.html

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