Thursday, March 15, 2012

Protestors Occupy Church in Havana


In a post that appeared today in Translating Cuba, Mario Hechavarria Driggs reports about the occupation of a church in Havana by the Republican Party of Cuba (not to be confused with Gingrich, Romney, et al). Thirteen protestors have taken over the church making demands for increased liberties in Cuba. Predictably, the church officials threatened the protestors that if they did not leave, the police would be called.

The story reminded me of the attitude of the position of many in the Roman Catholic Church during the Batista regime. The hero of my novel, Pedro Villanueva is a priest at the oldest church in Cuba, La Iglesia del Espíritu Santo. He is constrained by the church hierarchy from taking any action that might be deemed favorable to the revolution being led by Fidel and Raul Castro. Father Pedro is distraught by the corruption and violence of the Batista regime, but finds no support from the senior priests from the archdiocese.

History is repeating itself as protestors put their personal freedom on the line to demonstrate for greater freedoms for everyone in Cuba. Shortly, the Pope will visit the island. I wonder what he may say to Raúl Castro behind closed doors. Below you will find Mario Hechavarria Driggs’s report. It is taken from

Opponents occupy a church in Havana; the church hierarchy calls the protest “vindictive and inappropriate” / Mario Hechavarria Driggs

Protests in La Iglesia de la Caridad.

By: Mario Hechavarria Driggs

Members of the Republican Party of Cuba (PRC) and the November 30 Movement, remain entrenched from the afternoon of Tuesday 13, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, located in the Havana municipality of Centro Habana.

The opponents demand an end to repression and violations of human rights. In addition to presenting a set of demands to the Cuban authorities, looking to the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI they demand the following:

  • Unconditional freedom for all political prisoners
  • An end to repression and persecution of regime opponents
  • Freedom of Association and Expression
  • Right of entry and departure, and an end to the “White Card” exit permit
  • Access to uncensored information, including the Internet
  • Right to private property.

The protesters are:

  • Vladimir Calderon executive director of the PRC
  • Roinier Valentine (PRC)
  • Fred Calderon (PRC)
  • Yudiht Segura (PRC)
  • Yosiel Guia Piloto (PRC)
  • Miguel Lopez Santos (Movement November 30)
  • Emilio Torres Perez (November 30)
  • Pastor Perez Sanchez (November 30)
  • Madelaine
  • Lazara Caraballo
  • Neola Camila
  • Daysi Ponce Arencibia

The Chancellor of the Church, Monsignor Jose Ramon Suarez Polcari and the pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Charity, priest Roberto Betancourt, met with the opposition to ask them to leave the church, but they refused.

Vladimir Calderon said by telephone that the attitude of the church hierarchy was threatening:

“They told us that the protest was improper and vindictive, that the Church was not a shelter and they would be forced to denounce us to the police.”

In the evening, State Security cut the phone connection and maintains a cordon around the sanctuary, a police crackdown on the protesters is feared.

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