During the Black Spring in 2003, the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, journalists and librarians for alleged “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”. The “Damas de Blanco” – “Ladies in White” – were formed two weeks after the arrests. They protested against the arrests by attending mass in white clothes and carry out non-violent protests every Sunday.
In 2005 they received the Sakharov Price of Freedom of Thought. When receiving the price on behalf of the Damas de Blanco, Blanca Reyes said that the Cuban government violated its citizen’s human rights “on a daily basis.” Blanca Reyes lives in exile in Spain with her husband Raúl Rivero, a famous poet and author who was sentenced to 20 years of jail in 2003. He was released in November 2004 following international pressure and subsequently relocated to Spain. About the Cuban regime he said: “I was afraid of my own fear. I was afraid of not being able to stand it. Everything is programmed to undo you as a human being.”