The Cato Institute has announced the newest recipient of the biennial Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty: Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco), a movement led by Cuban women to free political prisoners.
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.”
Only two weeks after the arrest of her husband, Maseda, the organization’s founder, Laura Pollán Toledo, brought together a group of wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of men imprisoned for similar circumstances. Despite attempts by the Cuban regime to quash the movement, the marches continue, even after Pollán’s suspicious death in 2011.
The Cato Institute, an Atlas Network partner and one of the world’s premier libertarian think tanks, awards $250,000 to the winner of the prize, given every two years since 2002. Previous winners include former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Poland Leszek Balcerowicz, Chinese economist Mao Yushi, former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar, and Hernando de Soto, president of Atlas Network partner Instituto Libertad y Democracia in Peru. The selection committee for this year’s Friedman prize included, among others, former Mexican president Vicente Fox, Goettler, Herman Mashaba (former chairman of the Free Market Foundation and current mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa), and Atlas Network Board Chair Linda Whetstone.
In addition to the Friedman Prize, the Ladies in White are also past recipients of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the annual award presented by the European Union parliament for promoting individual freedoms. The Friedman Prize will be awarded at the biennial dinner on May 17, 2018 in New York City. To attend the dinner, register here.