Cato Institute Honors Human Rights Work of Cuba’s ‘Ladies in White’


Congratulations are in order to our friends at the Cato Institute on their recent big event in New York—the Friedman Prize Dinner. Every two years they gather with friends and supporters to present the organization’s highest honor (besides being accepted for an internship), the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.

This time around, the winners were The Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), a movement of Cuban women dedicated to freeing political prisoners. The Atlas Network explains the work these women do:

The Ladies in White gather each Sunday in Havana, wearing all white, to peacefully protest the captivity of their husbands, sons, and brothers for having spoken out about the island nation’s brutal Castro regime. Each woman carries a photograph of their incarcerated loved one. Despite constant harassment by state and mob actors, the group has marched nearly every Sunday since the 2003 arrest of journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.

“All who labor in the name of freedom take great inspiration from—and feel a tremendous debt to—courageous people who risk everything to stand up to oppression,” said Peter Goettler, president and CEO of the Cato Institute. “The Ladies in White are a stirring example. We are proud, and humbled, to award them the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, and hope this honor will bring more attention to their cause.”

Coverage by the Miami Herald added a few details:

The Cuban American National Foundation said the Cuban government didn’t allow the departure of several members of the group, including Berta Soler and Leticia Ramos, so they could attend the award ceremony. Blanca Reyes and Dolia Leal, who are among the founders of the group, and Lourdes Esquviel, a member of the executive committee, will pick up the award that is granted every other year for a significant contribution to advancing human freedom.

Sergio Moro, the Brazilian judge who has sent some of Brazil’s most powerful politicians and corporate chieftains to jail as part of the massive Operation Car Wash corruption investigation, will be the keynote speaker at the dinner held at Cipriani.

The selection committee for the 2018 prize includes former U.S. Court of Appeals judge Janice Rogers Brown and former president of Mexico Vincente Fox. Past winners of the prize include former prime minister of Estonia Mart Laar, Venezuelan student activist Yon Goicoechea, Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, and Chinese economist Mao Yushi.