Popes Claims Ignorance of Arrests in Cuba. Opposition Dismayed
Opponents of the Cuban regime expressed their consternation at Pope Francis's statement that he had no knowledge of arrests of political dissidents during his visit Cuba, and his failure to meet with activists, though the Apostolic Nunciature did invite several to see him at informal acts.
Opposition leaders reiterated to the DIARIO DE CUBA that the Nunciature was aware of the repressive actions the regime undertook over the weekend, and added that it was this same institution that invited several activists to see the Pontiff on two occasions.
Government critic Martha Beatriz Roque told DDC that she found it "very strange" that the Holy Father was so "uninformed." Roque —who was detained twice over the weekend on her way to see the Pope, invited by the Apostolic Nunciature— reported that she, Berta Soler and Miriam Leyva, who were also invited and held, informed the ecclesiastical authorities of their arrests.
"We all informed the Apostolic Nunciature about what had happened," said the activist, who said that she was "surprised" because if the Pope did not receive this information, such an omission would indicate a lack of coordination within the Church.
The leader of the Damas de Blanco, Berta Soler, meanwhile, believes that the Pope's words are "an indication that they are denying the reality of what is going on in Cuba."
The dissident pointed out that, to her great surprise, after the Pope blessed three activists who approached the Papamobile, they were promptly arrested. In fact, the three remain in the Unit of 100 and Aldabó, and have been on a hunger strike ever since.
Soler repeated that she, Roque and Leyva were arrested, and that if the Pope does not know this "the Nunciature and Cardinal Jaime Ortega withheld this from him." She also pointed out that the secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, on Friday 19th at 11 in the morning, personally went to the headquarters of the Damas de Blanco to invite her to see the Pope.
The same type of visit was received by Antonio G. Rodiles on Friday, at his house, to be invited to the same act. The activist declined the invitation, since the proposal involved him being behind a fence in front of the building, along with 150 people, with the regime controlling those who were there.
"I asked if there would be a private meeting, and the answer was 'no.' I told them that, in that case, I would most likely not attend," explained Rodiles.
The dissenter also indicated that on Sunday the Nunciature excluded Berta Soler from the second invitation to see the Pope, at the Cathedral of Havana, as "punishment" for the presence of the Damas de Blanco at the mass in Havana on Saturday, where several arrests took place.
Rodiles also considered it an "affront" that Soler, Leyva and Roque were not sent a car to pick them up, knowing that two of them are older people, and that they are exposed to police persecution. "At the Estado de Sats, we do this: we go to pick people up when we want them to come, and we don´t want them arrested, or so that, if they are, we are too."
In Rodiles' view the facts demonstrate that, in reality, the Church had no interest in facilitating contact with the opposition.