Tags: Cuba | cardinal | protest | ban

Cardinal Gets Cuba to Lift Protest Ban

Sunday, 02 May 2010 08:38 PM

HAVANA - Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega said Sunday he managed to convince the Cuban government to lift it's nearly month-long ban on street protests by "Ladies in White" -- the wives and mothers of political prisoners.

Ortega said the Church was "always dealing with" political prisoner issues with the Cuban government; "In ecclesiastical terms, I would say, for ever and ever."

The Archbishop of Havana made his announcement while delivering a mass at the Church of Santa Rita, after which he presided over a march by 12 members of the Ladies in White down the capital's Fifth Avenue.

For three previous Sundays, similar marches were attempted but stopped outside the church by police, who said the group lacked a protest permit.

Opposition groups, including the Ladies in White, have recently stepped-up their challenge to government authority by regularly taking to the streets.

The protests have aroused strong criticism of the Cuban regime from Europe, the United States and international rights organizations, but Havana has so far dismissed it all as a political campaign.

The Cuban government refuses to admit it holds political prisoners and accuses the Ladies in White of being "mercenaries" and agents of US-sponsored "subversion" on the island.

Havana has come under fire internationally and from activists inside Cuba since the February 23 death of dissident Orlando Zapata after an 85-day prison hunger strike to demand the release of 26 fellow ailing political prisoners.

A second dissident, independent journalist Guillermo Farinas, 48, took up the cause with his own hunger strike a day after Zapata's death and has since rejected the advice of his mother and others to drop his protest lest he die.

Cardinal Ortega also told reporters that the Catholic Church on Sunday had once again asked Farinas to be more "flexible" in his stance and end his 68-day hunger strike.

"It's more or less up to him," Ortega said, adding that the frail dissident has already been visited three times by a bishop and even more often by local priests, "at his mother's behest to ask him to stop his hunger strike. But he refuses."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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HAVANA - Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega said Sunday he managed to convince the Cuban government to lift it's nearly month-long ban on street protests by "Ladies in White" -- the wives and mothers of political prisoners.
Cuba,cardinal,protest,ban
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2010-38-02
Sunday, 02 May 2010 08:38 PM
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