Why these Catholics plan to protest at pope’s Cuba visit
A group of Catholic protesters were arrested in Havana less than a week
before a visit from Pope Francis to Cuba. The protesters say the
Catholic Church should do more for their political cause.
By Lucy Schouten
Pope Francis plans to visit Cuba on Saturday, and a group of Catholic
women are ready and waiting – with a protest. When the pope visits, some
Cubans will be focused on whether Cuba will change its restrictive
political policies in the wake of a renewal of diplomatic relations with
the US. These are Cubans who have been unhappy with their government –
and the Roman Catholic church which they say has failed to stand up to it.
More than 50 people were detained Sunday during a protest after mass.
Activists walked around the streets of Havana holding photos of
political prisoners. The mostly Roman Catholic group, Ladies in White,
was among the protesters, and the women left for the protest from the
Santa Rita Catholic Church, Time reports.
This protest comes just three days after the Cuban government announced
Friday the release of 3,522 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill before
the visit from the pope. The prisoners were selected based on their
behavior while in prison and the type of crime they had committed,
according to Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma. Many of those released
are over age 60 or under 20, and some are foreign, but most did not
commit violent crimes or “crimes against state security.”
Similar protests by Ladies in White occur almost every Sunday, but the
women were detained this time after they left their authorized route and
walked down a side street, Reuters reports. Dissidents say about 100
people are detained every Sunday, and August saw a particularly high number.
The Ladies in White plan to protest during the three-day visit of Pope
Francis to Cuba.
The Ladies in White and some of their dissident allies say the Roman
Catholic Church is too friendly with the government. They direct much of
their criticism at Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a friend of Pope
Francis who has risen to greater influence under Raul Castro.
“The Church should be concerned about this or any time human rights are
involved,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, told
Reuters. “It is their duty,” he said. He was handcuffed and detained for
an hour on Sunday.
The Ladies in White began protesting in 2003. At that time the women’s
group marched in white to protest on behalf of their husbands and
relatives, who were imprisoned for political activism, The Christian
Science Monitor reported. The protests became a weekly event, as women
who had left politics to the men now took to the streets.
Cardinal Ortega helped negotiate for the prisoners’ release, but he
angered the Ladies in White by refusing to support them as an opposition
group afterward, Reuters reported.
Cuban officials claim funding for the Ladies in White comes from
right-wing political groups in the US that want to destabilize the Cuban
government, reports the BBC.
In the same month that Cuba welcomes the pontiff, the country announced
that doctors who deserted the country while working abroad may return
from exile, the BBC reports. Some 25,000 doctors from Cuba work in
government programs for healthcare in other countries. Critics say these
doctors are underpaid, as the government pockets the profits, but the
government insists much of the care is free to needy countries in Latin
America and Africa.
Source: Why these Catholics plan to protest at pope’s Cuba visit – Yahoo