The Vatican’s silence amid Cuba’s atrocities
Posted on Sunday, 04.08.12
The Vatican's silence amid Cuba's atrocities
BY MARIA C. WERLAU
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