Cuban dissidents expressed their dismay earlier this week with Pope Francis’s recent meeting with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
“There really was no reason for His Holiness Pope Francis to meet with Fidel Castro in Cuba, a man who is no longer head of state, and who has a long history of human rights abuses in Cuba, most relevantly years of decimating the Catholic Church in Cuba and its followers,” Jose Luis Martinez, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, said in an email to The Daily Wire. “That said, I believe what is more important, is who Pope Francis did not meet with, Cuba’s human rights and pro-democracy activists, including those who are still serving unjust prison time. These brave men and women faced severe repression, violence, harassment and arrests, both before and during Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba.”
Martinez said that the FHR had received a “disturbing” report from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) a pro-democracy Cuban group in Cuba, which counts 142 members of its group arrested in Cuba because of the Pope’s visit.
“So far this is the preliminary list of UNPACU activists detained on the eve of and during the Pope’s visit to Cuba,” the report reads. “On this list are not mentioned the dozens of Ladies in White members also arrested and dozens of other activists from other organizations such as FANTU, the CID, among others. The total number of detainees should be somewhere between 250 and 300 activists.”
“Instead of meeting with Fidel Castro, had Pope Francis visited Cuba’s jails, he may have encountered almost forty political prisoners on our list alone,” Martinez continued. “They deserve His Holiness attention, and more importantly they deserve their immediate and unconditional release. Should the Cuban regime release these political prisoners, and allow space for human rights and pro-democracy activists, they would be acting much more in the spirit of Pope Francis’ call for peace and reconciliation, especially internal reconciliation between the Cuban government and its own people.”
In a statement released to The Daily Wire, Amnesty International said that it had been barred from entering Cuba since its last visit in 1988, while Pope Francis was welcomed during his visit earlier this week.
“Over the past few months, we have seen unprecedented openness when it comes to Cuba’s international relations,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “However, the country still needs to make progress when it comes to allowing people to peacefully express their views without fear of being harassed, detained or attacked,”
The Pope later dismissed Cuban dissidents during a CNN interview after his visit to Cuba.
“Rosa Flores, CNN: Good afternoon, Holy Father. I am Rosa Flores of CNN. We understand that more than 50 dissidents were arrested outside the nunciature [in Cuba] as they were trying to have a meeting with you. First, would you like to have a meeting with the dissidents, and if you had that meeting, what would you say?
“Pope Francis: Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone.”