Tag Archives: political prisoners

Catholic Bishop Accuses Cuba of Holding Political Prisoners, Despite Cardinal Ortega’s Denial

CubaRacismoRepresion

Breitbart News

The bishop in charge of the pastoral care of prison inmates in Cuba declared Wednesday that Cuba is holding a number of political prisoners on the island, some of whom are serving long sentences, a claim that Havana has repeatedly denied.

“Let’s be clear,” said Jorge Serpa, the bishop of the western diocese of Pinar del Rio. “We do have cases of political prisoners, persons serving long sentences for whom I have requested a review on behalf of the Church, and I will not tire of doing so.”

The bishop’s statements formed part of an interview published Wednesday in the magazine Palabra Nueva, a publication of the Archdiocese of Havana.

The Cuban government vehemently denies the existence of political prisoners on the island and instead punishes dissidents or members of the opposition under non-political charges, such as disturbances of public order or danger to the state.

In the interview, Serpa, who is head of the Commission of Pastoral Work with Prisoners of the Catholic Church in Cuba, said that there are “persons serving 47 or 40 years in prison.” He added, “In my group there are seven ‘color orange’ prisoners, who are those serving life sentences, and some of them are politicians.”

“Not long ago I received a call from an accredited foreign journalist in Cuba who had just received a list of political prisoners,” Serpa stated in mid-December.

Earlier this month, Cuba’s attorney general, Dario Delgado, declared that there were no political prisoners detained on the island and referred to dissidents as “common delinquents.”

“Sometimes it is said that we have political prisoners here. There are none,” Delgado said in an interview published on Human Rights Day.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an officially banned group tolerated by authorities on the island, says there are sixty “prisoners of conscience” in Cuba.

A year ago, the United States and Cuba began a historic diplomatic reconciliation after more than a half century of estrangement dating to the Cold War.

Abandoned by the Pope, Will Cuba’s Political Prisoners Abandon All Hope?

Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, where a sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara and a Cuban flag decorate a nearby government building. Pope Francis opens his first full day in Cuba on Sunday with what normally would be the culminating highlight of a papal visit: Mass before hundreds of thousands of people in Havana's Revolution Plaza. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

By Nat Hentoff This article appeared on Cato.org on October 14, 2015.

In my last column, I reported on the suffering of Cuba’s dissidents and political prisoners, which has only increased since President Obama normalized relations.

The reconciliation between Cuba and the United States was facilitated by Pope Francis and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Cuba. On Oct. 1, 2014, I wrote a column titled “Pope Francis’ Admirable War on Poverty.”

It is with regret that I must now write that by abandoning Cuba’s political prisoners, Pope Francis bears some responsibility for their increased suffering.

The PanAm Post, an online magazine covering the Americas, reported that prior to the Pope’s visit to Cuba, a list of political prisoners was sent to the Vatican by Nelis Rojas de Morales — secretary of the International Coordinator of Former Cuban Political Prisoners. Cuban human rights groups were therefore stunned when Cardinal Ortega, the architect of the Pope’s visit, denied the very existence of political prisoners in Cuba during two interviews with Spanish language media.

In an interview held in Rome, and published on March 30 in the Spanish language Catholic magazine Nueva Vida (New Life), Cardinal Ortega denied that there were any political prisoners in Cuba. Two months later, on June 5, Cardinal Ortega told Spain’s Cadena Ser radio that “there are no political prisoners on the island; just common criminals.”

“The dissidents, those that are called dissidents, are more present in the foreign press, in south Florida, and in blogs,” he said

Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), contested Cardinal Ortega’s claim that there were no political prisoners left in Cuba. According to the PanAm Post, the CCDHRN identified at least two dozen prisoners serving long sentences for peaceful political activities, 13 of whom were members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Cuba’s largest dissident organization.

The Catholic Register reported that Jose Daniel Ferrer — general coordinator of Cuba’s Patriotic Union (UNPACU) — “wrote an open letter to Pope Francis Sept. 3 asking him to ‘intercede and take up the defense of the rights of the oppressed in Cuba.’”

Damas de Blanco (“Ladies in White”) leader Berta Soler told Reuters that she would like to “discuss with the Pope the need to stop police violence against those who exercise their freedom to demonstrate in public.”

Earlier this summer, she reiterated to the PanAm Post that “the Catholic Church … should protect and shelter every suffering, defenseless person.”

Although the Cuban government released over 3,000 prison inmates prior to the Pope’s arrival, none of them were political prisoners. Reuters reported that in August, the month before the Pope’s visit, Cuban police detained 768 dissidents for peaceful political activity, the highest monthly total in 2015. The arbitrary detentions continued during the Pope’s visit. Berta Soler was prevented from attending the Pope’s appearances, while three members of UNPACU were dragged off, detained and have since disappeared after they tried to approach the Pope.

The closest that Pope Francis ever came to acknowledging the existence of political prisoners in Cuba was an oblique reference — during his welcoming ceremony in Havana — that he “would like my greeting to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet.” The Pope’s greeting resonated with the impact of a tree falling in an empty forest with no one left to hear it.

Defenders of both Pope Francis and Cardinal Ortega have likened their non-confrontational approach to the Castro regime with the spirit of reconciliation exemplified by the ministry of Jesus Christ. Yet the stubborn denial that there are no political prisoners suffering in Cuba’s jails — and equating the defense of human rights with a partisan political agenda — seems a far cry from the ministry of Jesus.

The Bible gives an account of Jesus appearing in “the Temple courts” and advocating on behalf of a woman accused of adultery brought before him by “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees” (New International Version, John 8: 1-11). Jesus stood between the woman and the stone throwers and challenged the unjust law that required her to be stoned to death.

Even atheists like me can acknowledge that the historical Jesus became the world’s most famous political prisoner through his detention, his public humiliation and his suffering. As Christians, Pope Francis and Cardinal Ortega might well remember — in their future dealings with the Castro regime — that Jesus welcomed the righteous into heaven with the greeting: “I was in prison and you came to visit me … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

Cardinal Sins – A Castro cleric brings disgrace

JaimeOrtegaRaulCastroSentados

Have you heard about the awful Cardinal hack scandal? It brings shame and obloquy upon a respected organization which has spent many years building up its good name. How could moral myopia prevail at such a critical time? What manner of insensitivity and obtuseness would lead to such unconscionable behavior?
What’s that you say… the Saint Louis Cardinals hacking into the Houston Astros scouting reports…?
Oh, no, no, not about baseball at all. I was referring to the Cardinal of Cuba, Jaime Ortega, revealing himself to be a shameless political hack. Yes, it is true. The cleric, in Spain for a conference, was asked by reporters about the conditions of political prisoners in Cuba. His response: THERE ARE NO political prisoners in Cuba. Mercifully he stopped right there and did not treat us to a treatise about the exemplary democracy of the island nation, thriving merrily under the avuncular gaze of those benevolent Castro brothers.
So, I suppose, Yippee! Castro’s prisons are empty now, leaving extra space for other uses. Perhaps they can open more of those wonderful medical schools Michael Moore featured in his documentary. A Castro Convertible, as it were.

his whole Cuban business is thoroughly disheartening. A formerly thriving country had its kleptocracy replaced by a theocracy, the theology in this case being Communism. In the old days the government made out like bandits and the people made out like people. Instead the government is a bunch of superannuated sanctimonious creeps and the people are a mass of penniless hostages. Greed has been replaced by need: how lovely!
All this happened over half a century ago. The United States expressed its moral disapproval in the form of an economic embargo. The result has been a pathetic standoff where we do not buy their cigars nor sell them our cars. None of this has fazed the Artful Codgers who run the place like a failed experiment. If political science is a form of science (questionable premise) then Cuba is a dysfunctional world out of political science fiction.
Along comes President Obama to point out that the policy has not “worked” and it is time to try a new approach. That sounds great for the five seconds requisite to withstand TV news scrutiny. Naturally the “new approach” turns out to be moral abdication. This reminds us of the famous remark by an elderly gentleman in the 1960s: “This New Morality sounds to me a lot like the old immorality.”
Of course the old approach has not “worked” if working is limited to complete success in restoring the island nation to normalcy. However, the policy has worked very well indeed at achieving its moral objective. It has left Cuba isolated as a moral pariah, a cautionary tale, a stink bomb. When we lift the embargo we lift the white flag of moral surrender.
“We are beginning a new relationship with the people of Cuba,” intoned our trend-setting President, thereby committing the Sobran Fallacy. The late Joseph Sobran was the first to identify this rhetorical trick of the Left. They speak of their fraternization with the captors as if it is a form of communion with the captives. If, say, we initiate friendly talks with Boka Haram in Nigeria, is that a way of beginning a new relationship with the schoolgirls they have kidnapped? No way! Sucking up to the Castros is not a way to reach out to the people of Cuba.
Here in South Florida the media are happy to be the mouthpiece for this drivel. We hear a steady drumbeat of cheerful echoes supposedly emanating from the island. Yes, Cubans are excited! They are ecstatic! They are upbeat! They are hopeful! Then the propaganda is upended by that pesky bugaboo of the left; namely, reality. A few days ago Hallandale Beach bathers were startled to be joined by four desperate rafters. Apparently they still like their chances better broke and barefoot in Florida than basking in the Communist paradise.
Which brings us back to the pathetic hack, Cardinal Ortega, who went to Spain and ran with the bulls***. His congregants look to him in vain for guidance along the pathways of conscience. If businessmen have sold out, if politicians have sold out, our last slender hope reposes in the hardy souls of our clergy. When they betray that hope, the tyrants own us outright.  American Spectator