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    The Vatican’s silence amid Cuba’s atrocities

    Posted on Sunday, 04.08.12

    The Vatican's silence amid Cuba's atrocities

    During his recent visit to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI said nothing about
    the Castro brothers' victims. This is not surprising. For decades, the
    Catholic Church has remained silent about most of the Castro regime´s
    worst crimes in its quest to expand its reach in totalitarian Cuba.

    One atrocity stands out because the church played a direct role in the
    events. On Jan. 2, 1981, three young brothers were executed for having
    sought asylum at the Vatican's embassy ("nunciatura") in Havana. Their
    names: Ventura, Cipriano and Eugenio García-Marín Thompson. They were
    19, 21 and 25 respectively.

    The three brothers came from a very humble family of Jehova's Witnesses,
    which have been fiercely persecuted in Communist Cuba. At least one had
    served political imprisonment for practicing this faith. They had
    received several warnings under Cuba's "dangerousness" law and were
    desperately seeking refuge. On Dec. 3, 1980, together with two other men
    and three women, they pushed their way into the Vatican Embassy in
    Havana, requesting asylum.

    The nunciatura immediately evacuated most personnel. Soon, Vatican
    representatives fooled the asylum-seekers into believing consular
    officers were coming to process their safe conduit from the country.
    Instead, in their place came a team of the Interior Ministry's Elite
    Special Troops and took them captive.

    Accused of killing a Cuban worker at the embassy, the brothers were
    tried summarily and immediately sentenced to death. Four weeks later,
    they were taken from their prison cells in the middle of the night and

    The remaining raid participants were sentenced to prison terms of 15 to
    25 years. The García-Marín brothers' mother and several relatives were
    given 20-year prison sentences for knowing about the plan despite not
    participating. All were released some years earlier than their sentences
    after the case received international attention. The mother died in 1992
    having lost her mind in prison, still clamoring for her sons' remains to
    give them proper burial.

    Cuban authorities said the brothers had been armed with a pistol, which
    they strongly denied and some witnesses agreed. The embassy worker
    allegedly killed in the raid was an employee of the Cuban government
    agency Cubalse, reported to have been a State Security agent. (All Cuban
    workers in diplomatic missions must be hired from a government agency
    and most are known to be spies.) Subsequent investigations by human
    rights' defenders in Cuba revealed he was living in Havana and had
    staged his injuries with fake blood to play his part in the raid. (See
    details at www.CubaArchive.org/database).

    For three decades, the Vatican has been publicly mute about the
    killings. Allegedly, it gave Cuban security forces permission to enter
    the diplomatic mission and take the asylum-seekers.

    The trail of blood of the Castro brothers is lengthy and ever present.
    Many young Catholics died long ago in firing squads clamoring, "Long
    live Christ the King." The death toll is spread over five decades and
    continues to grow. It includes scores of children and their parents
    murdered by border guards for attempting to escape Cuba as well as
    pregnant women and teenagers beaten to death by prison guards. Today,
    courageous dissidents are choosing death by hunger strike as a last
    stand against repression, Cubans of all ages disappear in the Florida
    Straits while trying to flee, and many young men are dying due to horrid
    prison conditions while serving long years for illegal economic
    activities such as killing a cow in protein-deprived Cuba.

    Pope Benedict's decision to legitimize the killers while failing to
    remember their victims is regrettable. The Church ought to decisively
    demand an end to these atrocities and stand firm for the life and safety
    of the Cuban people.

    Maria C. Werlau is executive director of the nonprofit Cuba Archive in
    Summit, N.J.


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