Las Damas de Blanco

Las Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, was founded to fight for the release of 75 dissidents, human rights activists and others who were jailed during the Cuban government’s March 2003 crackdown.

The group is made up mostly of the wives and other relatives of the prisoners. A related group – Las Damas de Apoyo – formed later to assist Las Damas de Blanco and bolster the group’s numbers.

Members of both groups usually march together on Sunday mornings along Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood. Afterward, they gather in the park to talk before heading home.

Human rights activists consider the group to be remarkable in Cuba because it achieved its main goal – the release of the 75 prisoners.

In April 2011, the State Department gave the group its Human Rights Defenders Award.

Cuban officials complain about what they perceive to be overly friendly relations between the U.S. government and Las Damas de Blanco.

Kathleen Duffy, an employee of the U.S. Interests Section, is shown at right.

In a July 2010 3-minute video on the Cuba Money Project’s Vimeo channel, U.S. Interests Section employee Kathleen Duffy can be seen greeting and chatting with members of the group. She declined to comment, referring inquiries to Interests Section officials, who would not answer any questions on the record.

The video was taken in July 2010 just after Cuba’s Catholic Church announced that Cuban authorities planned to begin freeing 52 prisoners – the last of the 75 still in jail after the 2003 crackdown.

Because of the timing, there was a larger than usual turnout for the march. Interests Section employees don’t show up for every Sunday march. Observers also included men who appeared to be Cuban state security agents.


Tracey Eaton was the Dallas Morning News bureau chief in Cuba from 2000 to early 2005. Before that, he headed the paper’s Mexico City bureau. Eaton, a former Fulbright scholar, has been a journalist and photographer since 1983. He travels to Havana regularly. In 2010 and again in 2011, Eaton received a Pulitzer Center grant to support his reporting in Cuba. He has been investigating U.S.-financed pro-democracy programs in Cuba.

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