Distributed by CubaNet
December 30, 1998
Havana, December 28, 1998
His Holiness John Paul II:
Warm greetings, love and affection to you, one of the eminent figures of this century, who has, courageously and simply, accentuated the dignity of the human being in a world where the culture of death seems to prevail.
We recall with excitement your historic visit to Cuba, a country ruled by an autocracy which denies the people their most fundamental rights - the rights to life and liberty, attributes ascribed to man by his Creator. The seed of truth, justice and liberty, so lovingly planted by you in our hearts, is still alive and generating faith and hope among our people in the reconstruction of a country where love for our fellow man, nourished by human rights, may be the bedrock of our existence.
According to Solomon, life is a reality (Ecclesiastes 1-8), reflected in our country as follows: The world has opened up to Cuba, legitimizing the government in Havana, and this government refuses to open up to the people. Political prisoners remain incarcerated, and the few ones that have been released are not reintegrated into society, leaving them with only one alternative -- to leave the Island and become exiles. The different categories of the Penal Code, a Penal Code that violates human rights, remain changeable. The society is organized around one sole party, and those whose opinions differ from that party are prohibited from getting organized. The nation remains divided with Cubans in exile and those remaining on the Island. Cuban exiles are not allowed to return to their country to rebuild it -- a country that must be rebuilt through free and democratic elections where everybody may have the opportunity to participate, and guaranteeing a variety or organizations.
Following the ideology of Father Varela, who asserted that "national independence and freedom are the product of individual freedom", and that "anything unjust shall never be the will of many", some Catholic priests, such as Monsignor Pedro Meurice, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, and Father Alberto, of the Luyanó Parish, have defended these ideas publicly. But it is with great sorrow that we must tell you that the Cuban religious institution has not conducted itself according to these words and yours when you said: "As long as there is injustice in the world, the Church must continue to speak about it. This is the legacy of Jesus to the Church."
Last November 27th and December 10th, the political police perpetrated acts of violence against the public, and dozens of non-violent human rights defenders were arrested. For example: Milagros Cruz Cano was beaten by the police and sent to the Psychiatric Hospital in Havana where she was subjected to psychiatric indignities; Matilde García, Ernesto Colás, Rolando M. Yyobre and Lázaro Constantín were brutally beaten while in a public thoroughfare; for attempting to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Buttari Park, Lázaro Constantín has been charged with the crime of "dangerousness" and sentenced to four years in prison. At no time has the Church made any statements condemning such injustices.
We are sending this letter to you via Mrs. Laida A. Carro and Liana Prieto, honorary members of the Lawton Foundation of Human Rights in Miami. These ladies are faithful Catholics, strong pro-life advocates, and stand against abortion and the death penalty. However, in the event that this letter fails to reach your hands, we are also sending it to you via this medium.
We need you to visit Cuba again, at least for a short period of time. Please forgive us for our lack of restraint when stating the above facts, but we are deeply angered at all the unfairness and arbitrariness in our country throughout the last 40 years.
May God continue to bless and reward you with good health and wisdom.
"Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud." Psalms 3-4.
"Righteousness exalted a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." Proverbs 14.34.
Lawton Foundation of Human Rights.
Dr. Elías Bisset and Rolando M. Yyobre
Translated for CubaNet by Elena Treto