House Foreign Affairs Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman
For IMMEDIATE Release – March 28, 2012
Ros-Lehtinen Condemns Arbitrary & Wanton Arrests of Peaceful Pro Democracy Activists During Pope’s Visit to Cuba
Asks Red Cross to investigate, take appropriate actions against regime for masquerading its thugs as Red Cross volunteers
(WASHINGTON) – As His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI prepares to leave Cuba, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, strongly condemned the arbitrary and wanton arrests of peaceful pro-democracy activists throughout the island before and during the Pope’s visit. Ros-Lehtinen has also written to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) asking for a thorough investigation into media reports that an individual wearing a Red Cross shirt attacked a man who was protesting against the Castro dictatorship. Click here for a signed copy of the letter. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“During His Holiness’ first papal mass in Santiago de Cuba, a man shouted ‘down with communism’ and was promptly detained and beaten by Castro’s thugs. One individual who attacked him was wearing a Red Cross shirt and savagely punched and threw a stretcher at the unknown individual who simply dared to say what is on the mind of freedom-loving Cubans. As a consequence of this heinous action against one unarmed man, I have asked for an investigation from the IFRC and for swift and appropriate action to be taken.
“Pope Benedict XVI ‘s message of peace and reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears among the aging dictators who have misgoverned Cuba for more than half a century.
“Reports from the island indicate that the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has been missing since last night and that the rest of the Ladies were holed up in their homes surrounded by agents of the dreaded Cuban State security services so they could not attend today’s mass. There have also been arrests throughout Cuba with hundreds of pro-democracy activists being detained and beaten and SMS text services and internet access has been shut off to prevent the activists from communicating with each other.
“Clearly, the repression by Cuban security agents has increased during this papal visit and it is sure to be more violent now that His Holiness has left the island nation. The Castro brothers should be wary of their future actions because the world, now more than ever, is watching. Their disregard for human rights and freedom will not go unanswered.”