Ladies in White

Cuban dissidents demand more active Church mediation with Havana
13/09/2015 – 20:34

Havana, Sep 13 (EFE).- Dissidents in Cuba are awaiting the visit of Pope
Francis to the island with moderate expectations and praised the
pardoning of about 3,500 prisoners announced by the Raul Castro
government but are demanding that the Catholic Church take on a more
active role as a mediator between society and the state.

Representatives of the internal opposition consulted by EFE agreed that
people must not expect “miracles” to emerge from the pontiff’s Sept.
19-22 visit, although they are confident that Francis will mention the
need to improve the situation of political freedoms and human rights on
the communist island.

“Cuba is in need of changes and freedom. Freedom will not be brought
here by the pope … Neither will changes. These must occur inside
Cuba,” Berta Soler, the head of the Ladies in White dissident group told

Although she hailed the role the Cuban Catholic Church played in 2010 in
mediating the release of political prisoners, Soler expressed her
disappointment in the current role of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the top
Catholic official on the island, whom she sees as “too close to the

“The cardinal recently said that there are no political prisoners in
Cuba and that civil society does not exist and is not known,” Soler said.

A similar opinion was expressed by Manuel Cuesta Morua, the head of the
moderate Arco Progresista group, who believes that the Church’s
mediating role “has weakened in that it has greater dialogue with the
regime and less with civil society.”

“I think the Church is losing a great opportunity to have the same kind
of dialogue with society, above all when it declares that its mission is
not political but rather spiritual,” he added.

Former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer, the head of the Patriotic
Union of Cuba, said that Francis’s visit, as with other papal visits,
will “leave something good for Cuba,” although he emphasized that the
island’s main problem is the lack of basic rights and freedoms.

Meanwhile, activist Elizardo Sanchez, the head of the Cuban Commission
on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said, “I don’t expect
miracles … beyond the release of prisoners,” adding that the island’s
government is “the main obstacle to the treatment of the Cuban people as
a citizenry.”

Source: Cuban dissidents demand more active Church mediation with Havana
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