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Cuban freedom of expression activist Laura Pollán dies

Cuban human rights activist Laura Pollán died on Friday, Oct. 14 of respritory complications in a hospital in the Cuban capital, Havana, reported The New York Times. Pollán was the outspoken leader of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a group that demanded the release of political prisoners in Cuba.

Pollán was the wife of independent journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison along with 28 other journalists in the 2003 Black Spring. Thanks to his wife's advocacy, Maseda was freed in February 2011 in a deal between President Raúl Castro and the Catholic Church.

"During the time her husband and more than two dozen other journalists were in prison, Pollán worked with CPJ to get small grants to the families of those journalists who most needed it," wrote Carlos Lauría and María Salazar-Ferro of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"The leader of the Ladies in White is dead, and no one in Cuba will ever carry a gladiolus in his or her hands without thinking of Laura Pollán," wrote Yoani Sánchez for the Miami Herald.

Sánchez also denounced the government's treatment of the activist's death. "In the same days that Laura Pollán suffered through intensive therapy, state television broadcasted slander about the leader of the Ladies in White. Among the most small-minded acts of the Cuban government is its inability to respect a political adversary, even when they are dying," Sánchez wrote on her blog, Generación Y.

Following her death, diplomats from Italy, France, Sweden, the United States, Germany, Poland and the European Union visited Pollán's house, reported Voice of America.

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