Biden receives Ladies in White leader in White House

Bertha Soler meets with Vice President Joe Biden Friday at the White House to discuss the human righs situation in Cuba.
Bertha Soler meets with Vice President Joe Biden Friday at the White House to discuss the human righs situation in Cuba.
Office of the Vice President

The leader of Cuba’s dissident Ladies in White, Berta Soler, met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Friday in an Obama administration recognition of the dissident movement on the island.

“It was surprising, and very important, that the White house has opened its doors to Cuban dissidents to listen to the message we bring — and the (requests for) support we seek from all of them for the liberation of my country,” Soler said.

She also asked Biden to ensure that when dealing with Havana, the U.S. government maintain its insistence on respect for human rights and protection for democracy activists on the island, Soler told El Nuevo Herald.

Washington also should be more skeptical of Raúl Castro’s economic reforms, she added, saying that few changes in fact have been put in place and that Havana is trying to project a positive image so it can receive international loans.

Soler said her message was ‘well received” by Biden during their 20-minute meeting. She was accompanied by Jorge Mas Santos, president of the Cuban American National Foundation.

“This is a great opportunity, a historic opportunity, a recognition of the courage not only of Berta and the Ladies in White but of all the men and women who confront the regime each day,” Mas Santos told Radio/TV Martí after the meeting.

The women’s group, winner of the European Parliament Sakharov prize for Freedom of Conscience in 2005, was founded by the wives, daughters and mothers of 75 dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown. The last of the prisoners were freed in 2011, but the women have continued their marches after Mass Sundays to demand human rights and democracy.

Soler was received after Biden by Ricardo Zuniga, who first met her when he was a human rights officer at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana in the early 2000s. He later headed the Cuba desk at the State Department and now heads the Latin America desk at the White House’s National Security Council.

The 49-year-old medical lab technician said that during both meetings she put special emphasis on the case of Sonia Garro, a Ladies in White member who has been jailed for more than a year. Prosecutors preparing for her trial next week have asked for a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of one of the policemen who raided her home, she added.

Soler was scheduled to fly to Miami Friday night but then return to Washington on Sunday to continue her rounds of meetings and public appearances.

She met Thursday with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who later said she shared Soler’s concerns “with the continued repression of the peaceful activities carried out by the Ladies in White and other independent groups of civil society.”

Next week Soler will appear before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States, in Washington and with Sen. Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey.

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

Sixteen migrants are found crammed in this tiny boat around Alligator Lighthouse, which is about four miles offshore of Islamorada in the FLorida Keys.


    More than a dozen Cuban migrants rescued at sea in Keys; several taken to hospital

    A small blue homemade boat with a blue-and-white sail was discovered floating near Alligator Reef Lighthouse, about four miles offshore of Islamorada, on Wednesday. Crammed inside the motorless vessel were 16 Cuban migrants lying down, suffering from dehydration, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Elsa Lopez looks at her clothes and shoes she wore when she left Cuba with her parents at the age of two at the time. Her items are among several donated by Exiles on display at the VIP opening and presentation of the The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom, at the Freedom Tower. The exhibit is a pictorial account of the struggles that the Cuban exile community has endured since Fidel Castro's rise to power, and the successes they have achieved in the United States, organized and curated by the Miami Dade College and The Miami Herald, on Wednesday September 10, 2014.


    Exhibition chronicles Cuban exiles story

    More than 1,000 people crammed into the Freedom Tower Wednesday night for a peek at an exhibition that honors one of the city’s oldest buildings – and captures the tales of hundreds of thousands of Cubans who fled the island and made Miami their new home.

This is the raft on which 16 Cubans sailed from Cuba to Alligator Reef Light off Upper Matecumbe Key this week.


    Cuban migrants found suffering from dehydration off the Keys

    Sixteen Cuban migrants were intercepted off the Upper Keys on Wednesday afternoon, and seven of them needed medical attention after suffering from extreme dehydration.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category