8 Years later, Cuba's Ladies in White collect Sakharov Prize

Brussels, Apr 23 (EFE).- Members of the Cuban dissident group Ladies in White collected Tuesday the Sakharov Prize that the European Parliament awarded them in 2005, and in the process had harsh words to say about the situation in their homeland.

The ceremony of presenting the prize to the Ladies in White was finally being held eight years later, because in all these years this is the first time they have been allowed to travel abroad.

"As courageous women of great determination who are used to traveling long, difficult roads, the road from Cuba to Brussels has taken more than seven years," parliament speaker Martin Schulz said.

The prize was accepted by the movement's spokeswoman Berta Soler, together with Belkis Castillo, Blanca Reyes - the group's representative in Spain - and Laura Labrada, daughter of their late leader, Laura Pollan.

The Ladies in White was founded by Pollan and others whose loved ones were among the 75 dissidents jailed in the Black Spring of 2003.

The Ladies in White dedicated the prize to Laura Pollan, and her daughter said "it has been a long, hard road, but we never lost faith that on a day like today we would be here to thank you for your support and to tell you our stories."

"Much needs to be done to achieve our goal, which is none other than a Cuba governed by the same principles of democracy and tolerance that inspire the European Union," Labrada said.

With the cry "Freedom for the people of Cuba!" she ended her speech, to the applause of the lawmakers.

In the subsequent press conference, Soler said that in Cuba "nothing has really changed," and that what they are doing is making "cosmetic changes that will not resolve the needs of the Cuban people."