Unión Patriótica de Cuba

Dissidents who asked to meet with the Pope are now being arrested.

Cuba After Benedict
April 8, 2012, 6:50 p.m. ET

Dissidents who asked to meet with the Pope are now being arrested.

Pope Benedict XVI's recent trip to Cuba was described by the Vatican
as way to spread the gospel to a nation captured by an atheist state.
And surely it was the Pope's purpose to inspire as many Cubans as
possible. The irony of the Pope's visit is that it has provoked a
crackdown on dissent.

Agence France Press reports that in the last week at least 43
dissidents in the eastern province of Santiago, one of the stops
during the Pope's three-day Cuban sojourn, have been detained by the
police. They include former political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer and
his wife Belkis Cantillo.

Mr. Ferrer was one of the 75 arrested in Cuba's "Black Spring" in
2003, and he was among 12 who refused to accept exile as a condition
of release in 2011. He is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.
Ms. Cantillo is among 10 members of the Ladies in White—Catholic
mothers, wives and sisters of political prisoners—who were arrested in
the sweep.

The Ladies in White had lobbied the Vatican through the papal nuncio
in Havana for a meeting with the Pope. Cuba's Jaime Cardinal Ortega
told them that the Holy See's schedule was too tight. This request was
widely publicized before the visit. So it was hard not to miss the
contrast of the Pope's inevitable meetings with the Castro brothers,
Raúl and Fidel, and even with the ailing Venezuelan strongman, Hugo
Chávez, in the country for medical treatment.

The unhappy truth is Benedict would have had to go into the Cuban
jails to see many of the island's Christian dissidents. Local
activists provided the names of almost 300 who were detained in the
week before the Pope arrived and held so that they couldn't attend the
papal Masses in Santiago and Havana.

Thirty-eight-year-old Andres Carrión Alvarez, who did make it to the
papal Mass in Santiago and chose the moment to shout "down with
Communism" in front of the cameras, was beaten and led off by state
security. He has not been heard from since.

Some of those arrested ahead of the Pope's visit have been released,
including Ms. Cantillo. Others, like Sonia Garro, are in lock-down.
Ms. Garro. a particularly courageous member of the Ladies in White who
had her nose broken by Castro mobs last year, was taken away by Cuban
security from her home on March 18. She has since been transferred to
the Guatao women's prison in Havana and is being charged with
"disrespect." She could get a sentence of up to four years.

Fairly or not, her fate and that of many other Cuban dissidents caught
up in this post-papal crackdown will always be linked to the visit of
Benedict XVI. They deserved a hearing while he was there.

A version of this article appeared April 9, 2012, on page A14 in some
U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Cuba
After Benedict.


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