Cardinal Jaime Ortega visited hunger striking Cuban political prisoner Ernesto Borges in prison for more than an hour.
Cuban jailed in Havana for spying for US stages hunger strike
Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega has met with a Cuban intelligence officer imprisoned in Havana for spying for the United States, and now reported to be in failing health after a three-week hunger strike to demand his release.
Ernesto Borges Pérez, a former captain in the Interior Ministry’s counterintelligence section, was convicted in a one-day trial in 1999 and sentenced to 30 years on a charge of high treason for passing secrets to U.S. diplomats in Cuba.
His father claimed Borges, a graduate of a KGB school, gave Washington the names of 26 Cuban intelligence agents who were about to infiltrate the United States and European nations, and asked for U.S. help winning his freedom.
Borges launched a hunger strike in January at Havana’s Combinado del Este prison to demand his release on parole. He has been imprisoned for 14 years, and Cuba’s military criminal code allows for parole after one third of the sentence is completed.
He halted the fast for a few days after prison officials promised to review his case, and started it again Feb. 10 after he was denied the early release, his father, Raúl Borges, told El Nuevo Herald on Wednesday in a phone call from his home in Havana.
Ortega’s spokesman, Orlando Marquez, confirmed the cardinal met with Borges for more than an hour Tuesday but declined comment on what they discussed. He described Borges as a “Catholic convert” and said the two men had been in contact “for several years” but gave no other details.
The prison visit was a rare gesture for Ortega, who usually shies away from sensitive topics although he has intervened with ruler Raúl Castro to halt harassments of some dissidents and arrange the release of about 115 political prisoners in 2010-2011.
“This indicates that the communications between the hierarchies of the church and the government are still open,” said Havana human rights activists Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz. “It is a visit that raises hopes.”
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