She is the most hated woman in Cuba, second only to her terrorist bedfellow who she has colluded with on covering up mass murder and terrorism for over two decades. Her nickname in Cuba is La Cochino (the male swine) And regretfully because of the embargo that she and her criminal cohorts fight relentlessly to enforce, the hate that the Cuban people feel for Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen has swamped Los Dames de Blanco, the Ladies in White.
On my recent 11th Mission trip, I attended my 7th and 8th 10:00 am St Rita’s Masses with the Ladies. I’ve always considered it an honor that as the women file in they sit in my pew and those in front and behind me. I have attended every Mass by myself, always getting a response of ‘we’d rather attend our own parish and see our friends and pastor’ when I have asked friends to accompany me. Like many parishes in Cuba, Mass attendance can be as few as 20 people and as many as 100+. Attendance at St. Rita is usually no more than 50, including the Ladies.
On July 20th my driver Roger was headed to a family gathering in Ciboney so he asked to drop me at St Rita’s early. I was very surprised to see the 8:00 am Mass let out with well over 150 people in attendance. After the lightly populated 10:00 Mass I spent time talking with the Ladies, then processed a ways with them on 5th Avenue.
I had called for a state taxi and when he arrived I crossed the street. The driver got out of the car and asked me if I supported the Ladies in White. When I replied in the affirmative he spit on me then cursed me and the Ladies. So I walked nearly 4 kilometers towards the Vedado neighborhood where I went to the house of some friends.
I explained what happened and the husband, wife, and grandfather all looked at one another. Ernan the husband said, “Paulo, Los Damas de Blanco are not liked in Cuba. Many people resent them trying to interfere with the government. They are los boquillas de La Cochino.” (the mouthpieces of the Male Swine, Ileana Ros Lehtinen)
I asked my friends if they knew what Los Damas stood for, and what their struggle was about – supporting and bringing light to the plight of men imprisoned for opposing the Castro regime. They pled ignorance. Later that day at a gathering of 22 friends I posed similar questions. I received similar responses from well-educated persons who are nevertheless in the dark because their sole sources of information are Communist Party newspaper Granma, and Los Noticias on television, and lack of interaction with the outside world, specifically the US.
I also received some confessions as to why friends had refused to attend Mass with me at St Rita’s and why attendance is heavy at the 8:00 am Mass. As to the latter, Cubans want to avoid being in the presence of Los Damas – in fact parishioners at St Rita wished they would go away And regarding my flying solo to Mass my friends thought I was likely to be arrested for fraternizing with The Ladies and did not want any association with that.
I tried to explain to the group what Los Damas stood for, how they won the Sakharov Prize for Free Thought, but to no avail. I am usually successful bringing people around but not in this case. The Cuban people hate Ileana Ros Lehtinen with a fierce passion. Drop her name to a group of men playing dominos or arguing beisbol on Esquina Caliente and they will argue over who would get to her first with a machete if she ever set foot in the country.
And so by positioning Los Damas de Blanco as ‘mouthpieces’ of Ileana Ros, the Cuban government has destroyed all credibility the Ladies may have ever had. Only tens of thousands of tourists – sneakers on the streets – interacting with everyday Cubans could turn this around.
Paul LeBon firstname.lastname@example.org