Cuban Christian Man Jailed After Police Confiscate Bibles, Told 'Our God Is Fidel Castro'


By Samuel Smith , CP Reporter | Jan 25, 2018 3:17 PM

(Photo: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini) Election officials sing the national anthem beside an image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro moments before opening a polling station in Havana, Cuba, November 26, 2017.

Details have emerged about the arrest and imprisonment of a Cuban Christian rights activist who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison late last year after authorities raided his home and confiscated Bibles and crucifixes.

Misael Diaz Paseiro, a dissident who is a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front, was arrested in November and charged with "pre-criminal social dangerousness" by the Communist government, according to the watchdog NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Paseiro's arrest came after state security agents raided his home on Oct. 22 and confiscated two Bibles, several crucifixes and five rosaries. According to CSW, it was on Nov. 4 that Paseiro was beaten by "political police."

"Misael, in addition to being a counter-revolutionary, you are also a Christian," CSW quoted a police official as telling Paseiro. "You should look at us, we are revolutionaries and we don't believe in your God. Our god is Fidel Castro."

Paseiro was initially denied basic rights in prison, such as access to a Bible and visits from a priest. Paseiro's mistreatment led his wife, Ariana López Roque, to go on a 19-day hunger strike.

During López Roque's hunger strike, CSW reports that police officials prevented a pastor from going to their home to provide counsel. Pastor Bárbaro Guevara tried to visit López Roque twice but was physically blocked from doing so.

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López Roque has since ended her hunger strike after receiving assurances that her husband's rights will be respected in prison, according to CSW.

As the government agents who beat Paseiro reportedly told him that the deceased revolutionary and brutal dictator Castor was their God, Cuban pastor and rights activist Mario Barroso told The Christian Post on Thursday that it is not uncommon for people in Cuba to invoke the name of Castro.

Barroso, a missionary who's been arrested many times by the Cuban government who came to the United States as a refugee with his family in 2016, told CP that invoking the name Castro as a deity is the "strategy of some people in Cuba to cover crimes and corruption."

"Invoking Fidel Castro in Cuba helps cover acts of corruption and even crimes. This proves that the followers of [Castro as a God] are not really so adept as Fidel himself but rather at the benefits that are covered by invoking him," Barroso explained. "Deep down they are imitating Fidel with this behavior since Fidel Castro was like that too: an opportunist, a blackmailer. So the believers in Fidel Castro act in the image and likeness of their god, Fidel. They are faithful followers of the evil example of their god."

"There may be 5 percent of those who claim to have Fidel Castro as god who really adore him," Barroso added. "The other 95 percent is just opportunists who imitate Fidel's bad example."

The news of Paseiro's detention comes as a new CSW report on Cuba released this month relays that there were as many as 325 religious freedom violations in the island nation in 2017.

Although the 325 figure is lower than the number of religious freedom violations that CSW reported in 2015 and 2016, it still continues an increasing trend in violations since 2011, the organization reports.

"CSW is deeply concerned by the growing number and severity of [religious freedom] violations reported by a wide variety of denominations and religious groups, which seem to show that the government is attempting to tighten its control over the activities and membership of religious groups," the CSW report reads. "Many of the documented violations were in line with the types of violations seen in previous years — for example the use of temporary arbitrary detention, harassment of church leaders, and attacks on property rights."

"It appears, however, that the government is now also diversifying its tactics by threatening activists and religious leaders with trumped up criminal charges, arbitrarily preventing them from traveling out of the country and targeting their children," the report continued. "It is essential that the European Union, the United States, and other governments in dialogue with Cuba use their positions to press for improvements to religious freedom and the general human rights situation in the country."


Former US inmate's wife decries exclusion from Cuba congress

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press

HAVANA –  The wife of a Cuban intelligence agent imprisoned in the United States for 10 years has written an unusual public complaint that her husband wasn't chosen as a member of the country's parliament.

The open letter posted on Facebook by Olga Salanueva, the wife of Rene Gonzalez, is a rare example of open dissatisfaction with Cuban political decisions expressed from within the ranks of the socialist system's most loyal defenders.

Gonzalez and four other intelligence agents are considered national heroes for their operations against Cuban exile groups in the U.S. and their 1998 arrests and long prison terms. They are treated as celebrities on the streets of Havana, besieged by well-wishers who shake their hands and ask them to pose for photos.

Two of the ex-agents — Fernando Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez — were listed this week as candidates for the upcoming assembly while Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero were not.

"Three of the five were left out," Salanueva wrote. "This represents, in my opinion, a great injustice against the five heroes of the Republic of Cuba."

"I see no reason for which they can't be deputies," she continued. "They deserve it, they're tried and true, and Cuba also needs them."

Hernandez, Labanino and Guerrero were released as part of the U.S.-Cuban deal that led to the 2015 reestablishment of diplomatic relations. The men work in government-affiliated institutions and made a series of trips abroad after their release but have maintained relatively low official profiles in recent months. Salanueva was publicly lauded in Cuba for her years of work campaigning for the men's release.

The 605 candidates for the National Assembly are selected in a complex process largely controlled by commissions made up of members of government-affiliated groups like neighborhood watch committees, the national small farmers' association and university and women's groups. The candidates then go to a popular 'yes' or 'no' vote.

The official candidates unfailingly pass that vote and are seated in the assembly. The assembly has been the scene of occasionally vociferous debate about the direction of the country, but almost always votes unanimously and its critics charge that it serves as a rubber stamp for proposals handed down by President Raul Castro and his inner circle.

The assembly seated this year will vote in April for Castro's replacement as president, widely expected to be First Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel.

Salanueva confirmed the authenticity of her letter but declined further comment.


Reports from Cuba: Letter to Raul Castro from three Cuban priests

January 25, 2018 by Alberto de la Cruz

By Fr. Castor José Álvarez, Fr. José Conrado Rodríguez, and Fr. Roque Nelvis Morales via Translating Cuba:

Letter to Raul Castro from Three Cuban Priests

A makeshift shrine to Cuba’s Patroness, The Virgin of Charity of Cobre, on Havana’s Malecon

To Raúl Castro Ruz on the 20th anniversary of the Mass for the Homeland celebrated by Saint John Paul II and the words of Bishop Pedro Meurice at Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba, on January 24, 1998.

On the first of January, the 59th anniversary of the triumph of a Revolution was commemorated. A Revolution necessary in the face of the atrocities committed with impunity by a power that had turned against this people. Many fought and many died to give their children a Cuba where they could live in freedom, peace and prosperity.

Today, almost six decades later, we have sufficient arguments to evaluate what we have experienced in our land.

Since the institutionalization of the Communist Party as the only party authorized to exist, this people has never been allowed to raise a different voice, rather, every different voice that has tried to make itself heard has been silenced.

This totalitarian style has permeated every layer of society. Cubans know they have no freedom of expression, they are careful in saying what they think and feel, because they live in fear, often even in fear of those with whom they live every day: classmates, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances and relatives. We live in a web of lies that runs from the home to the highest spheres. We say and do what we do not believe or feel, knowing that our interlocutors do the same. We lie to survive, hoping that some day this game will end or an escape route will appear in a foreign land. Jesus Christ said: “The truth will set you free.” We want to live in the truth.

The monopoly and control of communication media means that nobody can access public media freely. Similarly, there is no alternative education. Every Cuban child has a right to education and access to a school, but to a single model of education, to a single ideology, to the teaching of a single way of thinking. Cubans have the right to have educational alternatives and options for the teaching of thought, Cuban parents have the right to choose what kind of education they want for their children.

The economic helplessness in which this people lives is lamentable, forced by circumstances to beg for help from relatives who managed to go abroad or from foreigners who visit us; to ask for fair compensation or to steal everything they can, renaming theft with delicate words that help the conscience so as not to show it in all its harshness.

Many families lack a minimally stable income that allows them to acquire the basics of living without worry. Feeding, clothing and providing shoes for children is a daily problem, public transport is a problem, even access to many medications is a problem. And in the midst of a people that struggles to survive, the unspoken suffering of the elderly, often silently unprotected, is inserted.

How can it be said that capital belongs to the people, when the people do not decide what is done with it? How can the necessary public institutions be maintained if there are not the necessary resources? Why are foreigners invited to invest their money and Cubans are not allowed to invest theirs in an equality of opportunities? Cubans have the right to participate as investors in the economy and in our country’s negotiations.

And to all this is added the lack of religious freedom. The Church is tolerated, but it is constantly monitored and controlled. Full religious freedom is limited with controlled freedom of permission to worship. Christians can come together to share their faith, but they are not allowed to build a temple. The Church can hold processions and even public Masses, but always on the condition of an express permission from the authorities which, if it is not granted, is not subject to appeal or explanation. The Church can raise its voice in the temples, but it does not have free access to the mass media and, in the few moments when this does happen, it is always under censorship. The laity are censored when they try to apply their faith to political and social practice.

This social dynamic that has resulted in Cuba has forgotten the person, his dignity as a child of God and his inalienable rights; almost 60 years after this people believed in an ideal that is always postponed and never realized. When someone questions, when someone raises their voice, they find only vulnerability and exclusion.

We want a country where life is more respected from conception to natural death, where the union of the family is strengthened and marriage between a man and a woman is cared for; in which pensions are enough for our elders to live on; in which professionals can live with dignity on their salaries; where citizens can become entrepreneurs and there is more freedom of work and contracts for athletes and artists. Young Cubans should find work opportunities that allow them to develop their talents and skills here and not see leaving Cuba as the only way out.

We have a legality subject to power, the absence of a “Rule of Law.” The clear distinction and independence of the three powers is essential: executive, legislative and judicial. We want our judges not to be pressured, for the law to be order, for illegality not to be a way of subsisting or a weapon of domination. Let our Capitol be filled with legislators who, with full power, represent the interests of their constituents.

Our people are discouraged and tired, there is a stagnation that can be summed up in two words: survive or escape. Cubans need to experience the joy of “thinking and speaking without hypocrisy” with different political opinions. We are tired of waiting, tired of running away, tired of hiding. We want to live our own lives.

This letter also has a purpose, which is a right: We want to choose in freedom. In Cuba there are votes, not elections. It is urgent to have elections where we can decide not only our future, but also our present. Now we are invited to “vote,” to say “yes” to what already exists and there is no willingness to change. Choosing implies, in itself, different options, choosing implies the possibility of taking several paths.

If we write this letter is to prevent that one day, given whatever circumstances, Cuba is submerged in violent changes that would only add more useless suffering. We still have time to follow a progressive process towards a plurality of options that allows a favorable change for everyone. But time is running out, it is urgent to open the door.

There is no use hiding the truth. It is useless to pretend that nothing is happening. It is useless to cling to power. Our Master Jesus Christ tells Cubans today: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he forfeits his life?” We are in time to construct a different reality. We are in the time to create the Cuba Martí desired: “With all and for the good of all.”

We entrust ourselves to the intercession of the Virgin of Charity, Patroness of Cuba. She, Mother of all Cubans, intercedes before the Lord of history who, as His Holiness Benedict XVI said in Cuba: “God not only respects human freedom, but seems to need it,” so that we can always choose the greater good for all.

Father Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, Cura del Modelo, Camagüey

Father José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, Pastor of San Francisco de Paula, Trinidad, Cienfuegos

Father Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca, Pastor of Cueto, HolguínType your paragraph here.