On first visit to US, Cuban dissident seeks support

A major Cuban dissident leader making her first visit abroad appealed Thursday for international support to pressure Havana to improve its human rights record.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, issued the call during a meeting with Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, Cuban-American senators who are vehement critics of Cuba's communist regime.

Soler said the Havana government depicts itself as benign but the reality for dissidents like her is one of daily abuse, both physical and verbal.

"The government of Cuba sells one image abroad, and I am bringing with me the true story of my people," Soler said.

She was allowed to travel outside Cuba because the government in January lifted a much-loathed restriction that forced people to get exit visas to leave the country.

"I am seeking the moral and spiritual support of governments who love freedom and peace," Soler said.

Her group was founded by the wives, sisters, mothers and friends of 75 jailed Cuban activists rounded up and sentenced to long prison terms in 2003.

Dressed in white, the women march in silence in Havana each Sunday and are often detained. They say however that the protests have paid off after all 75 prisoners were released.