Cuban Pastor, Family Arrive in U.S. After Suffering Under Regime
Authorities imprisoned, fined church planter who fought for religious freedom.
MIAMI, Florida – An evangelical pastor once jailed by the regime of Fidel Castro arrived in the United States from Cuba Thursday with his family under a special resettlement program for political refugees.
The Rev. Carlos Lamelas, 50, his wife Uramis and two daughters, Estephanie, 18, and Daniela, 10, landed at Miami International Airport Thursday evening (July 7) on a direct flight from Havana.
Lamelas, who once served as national president of his denomination in Cuba, was granted asylum in the United States due to persecution he has endured for more than five years at the hands of Cuban authorities. On Feb. 20, 2006, security officials conducted an early morning raid of his home and arrested Lamelas.
They accused the successful evangelist and church planter of “human trafficking,” a charge related to aiding Cubans who wish to escape Cuba without government permission. Those close to Lamelas, however, said police targeted him because he had challenged the Castro regime on religious liberty issues.
During his imprisonment, hundreds of letters poured in from fellow Christians around the world, confirming their prayers for him and offering encouragement. Jailers admitted to Uramis Lamelas that the correspondence created difficulties for them, and that they “had decided on a change in procedure.”
Four months after his arrest, Lamelas was unexpectedly released. Authorities tried him in court in December of 2006. The state prosecuting attorney recommended acquittal on the human trafficking charge, which carries a sentence of up to nine years in prison.