As Cuba prepares for Pope Benedict XVI's visit next week, the White House today issued a strongly worded statement condemning the detention of members of the Damas de Blanco this weekend in Havana.
Their detention "underscores the disdain of Cuban authorities for the universal rights of the Cuban people," the White House said. "The quiet dignity of the Damas stands in stark contrast with the acts of those who are standing in the way of the basic aspirations of the Cuban people. We call for the immediate release of all who were detained and for Cuban authorities to abandon their tactics of intimidation and harassment to stifle peaceful dissent."
"President Obama and the American people remain steadfast in standing with the Damas and other courageous voices in Cuban civil society who demonstrate the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their country's future."
Various dissident groups on the island also have asked to meet with the pope but so far the church has been noncommittal. Members of Congress have also urged the pope to press the Castro regime for the release of political prisoners, as well as U.S. contractor Alan Gross.