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Gloria Estefan leads march for Cuban dissidents

Published:Saturday | March 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Grammy Award winner Gloria Estefan displays a photo of the Ladies in White, in the Little Havana section of Miami, on Thursday. The protest, spearheaded by Estefan, drew thousands of demonstrators in support of the Cuban dissidents in the island. - AP


A teary but smiling Gloria Estefan mounted the stage at the end of a march she spearheaded that drew tens of thousands of demonstrators in Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood to support Cuban dissidents on Thursday.

Shouting: "Libertad! Libertad!" the marchers gathered to support the Ladies in White, a group of Cuban mothers and wives of 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 government crackdown there.

"We are a people united by our love for freedom," Estefan told the crowd. We are here with all our different flags. That is what this great country allows us to do."

Last week, as the Ladies in White marched through Havana to mark the anniversary of the arrests, pro-government groups surrounded them and Cuban state security agents put several in chokeholds.

At Thursday's Miami demonstration, many brought children and grandparents.


Estefan, a Cuban-born, Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter, held up a photo of the Ladies in White and two gladiola stems, the same flowers the Cuban dissidents carry when marching. Beside her were other singers, including Pit Bull, Willy Chirino, Natalia Jimenez and Luis Fonsi.

A small plane flew overhead towing a banner that read, in Spanish, "Freedom for the Political Prisoners."

The march was peaceful, with different generations standing together and, unlike past marches, few angry shouts against Fidel Castro, the island nation's long-time leader.

Cuba's human-rights record has drawn international attention in recent weeks with the death of dissident hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the hospitalisation of a second activist, Guillermo Farinas, and most recently, video of the treatment of the Ladies in White.

"I see the rest of the world speaking out, I see the European Union speaking out, people who usually side with Fidel Castro," Estefan said in advance of the demonstration. "I thought, 'My God. I'm a woman. I'm Cuban. I have the opportunity to speak out because of the music thing. It's something I have to do'."