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Miami Mass Held For Cuban Founder Of Ladies In White

HAVANA (CBSMiami/AP) – A mass will be held in Miami for Laura Pollan, the founder of Cuba's Ladies In White.

The public mass will be held at 8 p.m. at the Ermita de la Caridad, a church in Miami.

According to Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, Pollan died Friday after she was hospitalized on Oct. 7  for acute respiratory problems and had been in intensive care ever since. She may have been suffering from Dengue Fever, according to published reports.

Her husband said Pollan died Friday of a "cardiorespiratory attack" after doctors had tried for nearly an hour to revive her.

Pollan was a vocal opposition figure in Cuba. For nearly a decade, she staged weekly protest marches with other wives of political prisoners to press for their release after her own husband was jailed in 2003.  The women marched through a Havana district each Sunday after mass dressed in white and carrying gladiolas.

The women wear white and walk silently through the streets of Havana every Sunday in protest of the imprisonments.

"She was a teacher and a housewife, but she became a leader for civil rights," said Elizardo Sanchez, a prominent human rights activist on the island. "She has played a fundamental role, without a doubt even beyond winning freedom for her husband."

Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart released the the following statement on the death of Pollan:

"I am deeply grieved to hear of the passing of Laura Pollan, the courageous founder of the Ladies in White," the statement read. "Laura founded the Ladies in White ten years ago when her husband, Hector Maseda, was imprisoned. Since then, the Ladies in White has brought international attention to the unjust imprisonment and harsh prison conditions that Cuba's brave pro-democracy dissidents have suffered at the hands of the Castro regime. While I mourn the loss of one of Cuba's great heroes, I am tremendously grateful that Laura Pollan's leadership and unshakable resolve have left an enduring legacy that undoubtedly will hasten freedom to the Cuban people."

Pollan was 63.


(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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