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Cuban bishops back freedom of expression ahead of protests

By Diego Lopez Marina for CNA

A protest of Cuba's communist government in Havana, July 11, 2021. (Domitille P/Shutterstock)

Havana, Cuba, Nov 12, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The Cuban bishops’ conference on Thursday indicated its support for the right of citizens to express themselves freely, without fear of intimidation and reprisals, shortly before marches protesting the island’s communist government planned for Nov. 15.

“Every person deserves esteem and recognition of his dignity, for his condition as a human being and a child of God, for being a free citizen, a person with rights and duties. Consequently, every Cuban should be able to freely and respectfully express and share their personal opinions, thoughts or convictions, even when they disagree with the majority,” the conference stated Nov. 11.

A “Civic March for Change”, a peaceful demonstration in several cities of Cuba that seeks to repeat the protests which took place across the country July 11-12, has been announced for Nov. 15.

The bishops lamented that in recent weeks “the increase in a climate of tension and confrontation that is not healthy nor benefits anyone.”

“Any act of violence between us, whether physical, verbal or psychological, seriously wounds the soul of the Cuban nation and contributes even more to the sorrow, suffering and sadness of our families,” they said.

“A wounded soul is in no condition to build a future of hope. Violence contradicts the will of God, as Christ has said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God’,” they added.

The bishops consider there is “an increasing urgency for the involvement of Cubans in a national project that involves and motivates everyone; that takes into account the differences, without exclusions or marginalizations.”

“We think that it is necessary to implement mechanisms where, without fear of intimidation and reprisals, everyone can be heard and the dissatisfaction be channeled, in the face of the harsh daily realities that overwhelm so many, especially the most impoverished and vulnerable,” they continued.

The Cuban bishops said that it is “indispensable to implement the necessary changes, so long desired, that favor a decent and happy life here for all the sons of this land of ours.”

The bishops urged “everyone to spare no effort so that the way to understanding, reconciliation and peace is paved; in such a way that the various proposals on the present and future destiny of our country, find an area of common sense, tolerance and concord, and a harmonious and civilized dialogue is established in which the best solutions to the problems that concern us can be found. ”

“How much would so many Cuban families and the Church itself be grateful, and how much social tension would be diminished if there were a gesture of clemency for those still under arrest for the events of last summer!”

Prisoners Defenders, a Spanish NGO that provides legal defense for human rights,  reported Nov. 4 that Cuba has detained 683 political prisoners in the last 12 months.

In addition, the NGO said it has been possible to determine there were 591 active cases during the month of October, and that of that group, 370 remain in prison since the protests of July 11.

Protests took place across Cuba July 11-12. Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and thousands were arrested.

Communist rule in Cuba was established soon after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which ousted the authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista.

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