Tragic news came from Cuba yesterday with the announcement that Ladies in White leader Laura Pollán died in a Havana hospital from cardiac arrest. Since October 7 Pollán was being treated at the Calixto Garcia hospital for a serious respiratory illness.
According to interviews by BBC Mundo reporter Fernando Ravsberg, Pollán contracted the Human respiratory syncytial virus (RVS). Recent reports indicate that Pollán's family has cremated her body, while her husband Hector Maseda thanked the doctors who "tried to save my wife's life until the last minute." Berta Soler, another member of the Ladies in White, also made positive comments about the medical treatment Pollán received saying the doctors "are fulfilling their oath to save lives, without concern over ideology."
Meanwhile in Miami, Radio Mambi's Armando Perez Roura (programming director) announced "the murder of Laura Pollán" at the top of today's noon news program "El Grande del Mediodia." Perez Roura, who traditionally introduces the top news stories, made the baseless claim which seems to be resonating inside the Cuban exile community.
(For days now local Spanish news has been spreading the allegation that Laura Pollán may have been deliberately infected with RVS in a Cuban government conspiracy. Fausto Malave for Telemundo51 spread the allegation using interviews with Silvia Iriondo from M.A.R. por Cuba and Janisset Rivero from Directorio Democratico Cubano. Rolando Napoles from AmericaTeVe spread the allegation using interviews with Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso of local organization Solidaridad Sin Fronteras.)
Last night, upon hearing the tragic news, militant group Vigilia Mambisa made their way to Little Havana's Versailles restaurant where they made a small demonstration. But, they were mainly there to make the 11pm news, where local news stations instinctively flock to when Cuba is the headline. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen knew the drill, so there she was at Versailles along with Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of another Cuban dissident who last year died in a Cuban hospital. Telemundo51 reported live from Versailles as the crowd (except Rep. Ros-Lehtinen) chanted "murderers" and "terrorists."
Telemundo51 reporter Adriana Delgado includes interviews with the members of Vigilia Mambisa alleging that Laura Pollán's death was part of a Cuban government conspiracy. Delgado also interviewed Reina Luisa Tamayo who likewise alleges that Pollán was murdered, just like she alleges her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo was murdered. Delgado then interviewed Rep. Ros-Lehtinen who immediately went into how she was "concerned" over the Obama administration's Cuba policy, clearly exploiting this tragic event for political purposes.
None of this surprises me. The most hard-line members of the Cuban exile community never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a tragic (or near tragic) event coming from Cuba. And, that's because they know well that a hard-line position can only be maintained through shocking examples like Pollán's death. Even better if the death or serious injury is linked to the Cuban government. And, when it comes to Cuba, the local news easily makes itself available to the hard-line.
Don't expect to hear in Miami the positive descriptions made by Pollán's husband, or Berta Soler quoted above concerning the treatment Pollán received. It just doesn't fit the Miami narrative against Cuba.
[Along the Malecon blog has video of Laura Pollán before her illness.]