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ladies in white protest


Cuba’s dissident group The Ladies in White has called off its traditional protest for the first time in 13 years following Fidel Castro’s death.

The group says the decision is to avoid tensions.

The Ladies in White, formed by wives of jailed dissidents, has long defied a protest ban in Cuba with a weekly march.

Fidel Castro died on November 25 at the age of 90. Flags are flying at half mast as Cuba observes nine days of mourning.

From November 28, people will be able to pay their respects at memorials and rallies before Fidel Castro’s ashes are taken to Santiago de Cuba where he launched his bid for power.

Ladies in White members were detained during a protest march in Cuba

A mass public ceremony is planned at Havana’s Revolutionary Square on November 29.

There have been further celebrations in Miami where many anti-Castro Cuban exiles and their families have settled.

Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and ushered in a Communist revolution.

Supporters say Fidel Castro returned Cuba to the people, and praise him for some of his social programs, such as public health and education.

Critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent, accused of numerous alleged human rights abuses.

The regular Sunday march of the Ladies in White is a rare expression of dissent largely tolerated by the government.

The women march in silence through the streets of Havana following Mass at a Roman Catholic Church, asking for the release of political prisoners and for human rights to be respected.

“We’re not going to march today [Sunday] so that the government does not take it as a provocation and so that they can pay their tributes,” the group’s leader, Berta Soler, said.

“We respect the mourning of others and will not celebrate the death of any human being.”

In a tweet reacting to Fidel Castro’s death, the Ladies in White said: “Fidel Castro has died, may God forgive him, I WON’T.”

Cuban authorities say the Ladies in White are in the pay of the United States and form part of Washington’s “decades-old effort to undermine Cuba’s socialist revolution”.

The government says there are no political prisoners in Cuba.