Friday, May 28, 2010

Cuban Protestors Thank Church for Mediation

Cuban Protestors Thank Church for Mediation
Wives Hoping for Release of Political Prisoners

HAVANA, Cuba, MAY 27, 2010 ( "We still have a lot of hope,"
says Laura Pollán when she speaks of the possible release of political
prisoners in Cuba. Her own husband, Héctor Maseda, is completing a
20-year sentence.

Pollán is the spokeswoman for a group of Cuban protestors -- mostly
wives and mothers of political prisoners, known as the "Ladies in White"
-- whose cause is being presented to the government through the
mediation of the Church.

They are the only public protestors known to have been permitted by
authorities since the '60s, though the Church last month was already
instrumental in protecting them from a government threat to prohibit
their Sunday marches.

After their march last Sunday, the Ladies in White affirmed their hopes
for a step by step release of political prisoners, and they thanked the
Church for its help.

"We still have a lot of hope, the conversations are moving ahead [...]
we have a lot of faith that soon, there will be good news," Pollán said.

Moving forward

The spokeswoman reported that Saturday they had a "very good three-hour
meeting" with the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino,
and one of his auxiliaries, Bishop Juan de Dios Hernández.

"They told us that soon there will be surprises," she said. "There are
discussions under way (with the government) about the issue of the
prisoners, the relocation (of prisoners) and the issue of (Guillermo)

Fariñas is a journalist who three months ago began a hunger strike in
protest at the death of a fellow dissident. He is seeking the release of
26 more political prisoners who are said to be seriously ill.

President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Ortega met last week for more than
five hours, and the cardinal advocated the release of the political
prisoners. Human rights groups calculate there are some 200 of these
prisoners in Cuba.

Fariñas told the Mexican news agency Notimex that Auxiliary Bishop
Hernández visited him in his hospital room in Santa Clara and told him
of the government decision.

Pollán affirmed, however, that the prelates reminded her that it will be
step by step. "We can't bound up the whole staircase in one leap," she
said, "we'll go step by step."

The Ladies in White spokeswoman said she was unaware of a date for the
measures Fariñas is expecting.

In process

Reiterating that the process would develop in small steps, she said that
"we cannot think like some people who have the hope that they are going
to suddenly open the gates, and everyone is going to come out all at
once. No."

Pollán added that the Ladies in White have asked for direct meetings
with the government, with the Church acting as mediator in the meetings.

"But it looks like this won't happen," she said. "It seems that they
will talk to the Church, the Church will report it to us, and we will
talk with the Church about what we agree with [and] what we keep asking."

The Ladies in White had their first meeting with Church leadership on
May 1, with the participation of Cardinal Ortega; they met again May 15
with Monsignors Ramón Suárez Polcari and José Félix Pérez; and in the
most recent meeting, Cardinal Ortega again attended.

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