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Ladies In White

A pro-democracy group in Cuba, Ladies in White, has been named a winner of the 2005 Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament. The prize is named for the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. The award announcement said, "The Ladies in White continue to campaign despite attempts to silence them. International support for their cause has been extensive."

The Ladies in White was recognized for its weekly peaceful protests against the Cuban government's detention of their husbands and sons. The protests are held each Sunday after church in Havana. The group was formed in March 2003, after the government of dictator Fidel Castro arrested seventy-five independent journalists and individuals running private libraries.

Elisa Gonzales Padron is the wife of Victor Rolando Arroyo, one of the jailed Cuban journalists. Of the Sakharov prize she says, "It's an honor, not for us, but for our husbands. Ladies in White," she says, "was a spontaneous movement by women who [were] united in pain, [by] a situation the government provoked by jailing our husbands."

A statement released by the U.S. State Department says, "Despite regular harassment and abuse by the Castro security forces, the Ladies in White peacefully and nonviolently demonstrate the enduring freedom-loving spirit of the Cuban people."

Caleb McCarry coordinates U.S. policy efforts aimed at hastening a transition to democracy in Communist Cuba. He says the U.S. stands with those in Cuba who are standing up to the dictatorship of Fidel Castro:

"For forty-six years, the dictatorship has willfully and cruelly divided the Cuban family. It will be Cubans, brave souls on the island itself and from around the world, who will determine the future of a free Cuba."

The United States joins the European Parliament and others in calling on the Castro regime to release all prisoners of conscience.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.