Miami exiles support moms' pleas in Cuba
``I think of what my own mother must have gone through when I was in prison,'' said Arias Iglesias, now herself the mother of a baby girl.
Arias Iglesias spent four years in a Cuban prison for ``revealing a government secret.'' The secret: Julio Cesar Alvarez Lopez was a government security agent, who joined and led a conservative dissident coalition. Alvarez Lopez remains in jail in Camaguey.
The six-minute videotape released in Miami on Wednesday is a message from the Cuban mothers asking for general amnesty for political prisoners in Cuba and for the elimination of political crimes from the Cuban Penal Code. The women in Cuba risk being jailed for trying to collect signatures on a petition requesting the change. According to the Cuban Constitution, 10,000 signatures would allow for such a change.
Cuban secret agents are allegedly searching for the women.
``They are being told not to continue, but these mothers have lost their fear because it is their sons who are in jail and they know the repression is against their sons, and they know we support them,'' said Cristina Cabezas, a former political prisoner who now lives in Miami.
Repeating Pope Juan Paul II's message during his January visit to the island, 55 of these women went on a pilgrimage on July 17 to Santiago de Cuba and prayed before the Virgin Mary of Charity, Cuba's patron saint. They asked God to release islanders' repressive fears so that more people would sign the petition. Their slogan is: Fear No More.
While they work in Cuba, a group of Miami women -- including Arias Iglesias -- released the videotape at a news conference at La Ermita de la Caridad. Calling themselves the Group in Support of Mothers for a General Amnesty for Political Prisoners in Cuba, the Miami women want the public to adopt a political prisoner and his family. They also want people to send a hopeful letter or medicine or make a phone call so that they do not feel alone. The group also asked that movie stars participate in their cause and bring international attention to the plight. They haven't yet appealed to a particular star.
``We are Cuban mothers responding to a conscientious call from Cuban mothers inside Cuba,'' said Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario was killed by Cuban MIGs while flying in a Brothers to the Rescue plane searching for Cuban rafters in 1996. ``We ask all leaders of all faiths to join in prayer and partake in the mothers' campaign to ask the Cuban government to eliminate the penal code for political prisoners.''
Cabezas, a member of the Miami group, asked that people of all nationalities join in the cause because ``this is happening now in Cuba, but it can happen in any country.''
Said Mercedes Parada Antunez, also a former political prisoner and an activist member of Concilio Cubano in Miami: ``This is a titan effort, but even if they don't succeed in getting the penal code changed, it will be a victory to collect all those signatures.''
In the video, five women make a plea. Some ask the Pope to continue his efforts, and others say that while some prisoners are released many more are thrown in prison.
Said Milagros Diaz, mother of prisoner Bulmaro Gomez Diaz: ``They are not thieves. They simply have political ideas.''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald