The following is my translation of Zoé Valdés’ Open Letter to Pope Francis I, which appeared on her blog on March 19, 2013.
Your Holiness Pope Francis I
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on becoming the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.
For more than a half-century – 54 years – my country Cuba has suffered under one of the cruelest communist tyrannies headed by the Castro family. From 1959 to the present day, there has not been one single day of liberty on the island. Prisons filled to capacity, torturous repression, political assassinations, religious persecution, and the lack of liberties have been the daily routine for everyone on the island.
On July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and a young man by the name of Harold Cepero mysteriously died in an auto accident. The political police were following them, as is often the case. Last month, another member of the Christian Liberation Movement also died in an auto accident. Two priests were traveling with him and were seriously injured. Antonio Rodriguez Vazquez was buried last month in Cienfuegos, the funeral services carried out at the Monserrat parish of that city. The accident took place when Rodriguez Vazquez, along with Jesuit priests Ramon Rivas and Ignacio Cruz Magariño, were driving to the capital.
Rosa Maria Payá, the daughter of Oswaldo Payá and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, is calling for an extensive investigation to discover the truth behind the death of her father and Harold.
The racial problem in Cuba increased with the Castro brothers taking power. In my country, women and men are beaten viciously on a daily basis regardless of the color of their skin. But the hatred the regime spews with the most animosity is reserved for black women, as evidenced in recent days with the beating of opposition member Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.
This coming March 21st will mark one year since opposition member Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz have been imprisoned without a trial or sentence handed down. They were imprisoned for simply wanting to address Pope Benedict XVI as a Lady in White during his visit to Cuba in March of 2012. She suffers from a cyst on her kidneys and is gravely ill. He suffers from an ulcer. Nevertheless, Cuban authorities have prohibited their family members from taking them food and medication in prison. Her daughter, who is a minor, has had to move in with an aunt who has three children of her own and has been subjected to merciless repression by Castro agents.
In Cuba, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and Jorge Luis Pérez García, also known as Antúnez, were imprisoned for dreaming of the liberty and democracy found in your country. Angel Moya is a political prisoner from the Black Spring. None of these three men were permitted to leave Cuba to give the world their messages of peace and of love for Cuba, life, democracy, and liberty. A message that is very different from the message given by the Castro regime to the world throughout the past half century.
Writer Regis Iglesias, a former political prisoner from the Black Spring and spokesperson for the Christian Liberation Movement in exile was paroled and forcibly exiled to Spain along with many other political prisoners. Cuban authorities have denied him permission to return to this country, as they have done with many other exiles.
Cubans need the Church to unite itself with the people, not the dictatorship. The Church needs to support these people with its words and its actions.
Your Holiness, as Cubans, we hope the Catholic Church will recognize, support, and speak the names of these individuals who are symbols of liberty, so their plight will be known throughout the world and they, along with the Cuban people, can be liberated. So at last, as it happened in South Africa, the apartheid and the hate against the Cuban people can end.
The Castro regime has initiated ridiculous and cosmetic reforms to keep itself in power. It is nothing more than a ploy to buy more time, as we have seen take place with other dictatorships. These reforms should not be considered real changes. Under the Castro tyranny, I do not believe there will be changes that benefit the Cuban people. While some are allowed to travel, others are imprisoned and some are even prohibited from leaving their own homes.
Today, Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, is traveling outside of Cuba. The Ladies in White are women who have been violently repressed, beaten, and persecuted by the dictatorship. Their founder, Laura Pollan, also died under mysterious circumstances. Berta Soler is an incredibly valiant woman who knows firsthand the cruelty of repression and of racism. Her husband, Angel Moya, a former political prisoner and active opposition member, has been denied permission to leave the country as I mentioned earlier. Your Holiness, you should meet with Berta Soler, you should speak to her face to face and support her. You should also meet with Rosa Maria Paya, a young woman filled with love and peace and devoid of hatred, who only seeks justice and the truth; something we all deserve so one day all Cubans can find reconciliation. Only the truth can make such a reconciliation possible.
Thank you, Your Holiness.
Cuban Writer in Exile