Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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1,158 Reasons To Think Again About the Pope’s Visit To Cuba

by Elliott Abrams
April 19, 2012

I’ve written here before about the Pope’s visit to Cuba and his disappointing silence about political repression there. Now we learn in the Miami Herald that his visit occasioned the detentions of 1,158 Cubans in the largest sweep in decades.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent group, has issued a report listing all the detentions–more than half of which came during or just before the Pope arrived on March 26. The total of 1,158  is “the highest single monthly tally in the last five decades, only comparable to the huge sweeps carried out across the country” in 1961 after the Bay of Pigs.

This should not come as a great surprise unless you think Cuba is in the midst of a Castro-led reform period. But it should occasion some comments from the Vatican, for the papal visit was what led to these detentions. Too quiet while in Cuba, the Pope should speak out more firmly now in favor of freedom there. The Herald story continues:

The tally added fuel to complaints that the pope and Cuban Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the communist government’s human rights abuses in their efforts to gain more space for church activities on the island. The dissident Ladies in White have asked for a meeting with Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino “because the repression has grown worse here in Cuba, and what we’re seeing is a total silence on the part of the church,” group leader Bertha Soler said Tuesday.

There are 1,158 new reasons for that silence to be broken.

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