POLITICS

Two dozen dissidents were arrested by Cuban police during papal visit

Berta Soler, co-founder of the Ladies in White, during on April 27, 2013 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Berta Soler, co-founder of the Ladies in White, during on April 27, 2013 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (2013 Getty Images)

Some two dozen dissidents were arrested during Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and were freed after his departure from the island, reported Breitbart News.

The dissidents were primarily members of the Ladies in White.

Members of the group said they had been invited by Vatican officials to attend the pope’s mass at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, but were arrested before they could get there.

The women – many of whom are the wives, daughters and mothers of present or former political prisoners – accused Cuban security officers of beating them, dragging them by the hair and verbally abusing them, according to Breitbart.

The women say that they were detained by the Cuban secret police. Their head, Berta Soler, was separated from them and singled out for harsher treatment, the website reported.

“A bus came and took us all away,” Breitbart said one of the women explained. “They took us like they always do: pushing us, beating us.”

“They grabbed me by the hair, by the neck, and shoved me violently into a car,” Soler recalled. “A man in the passenger seat grabbed my hands and started squeezing and I told him ‘Stop! Stop, men don’t do this! Don’t you know you came from a woman’s womb?'”

The women expressed disappointment that Pope Francis was not more vocal about human rights in his public statements in Cuba.

“We have heard from other people that the Holy Father has not called for an end to police violence, the end to political prisoners, abuse, the way John Paul II did,” Soler noted. “We know the Holy Father isn’t a liberator, but we need a liberator… he won’t bring change, but he was involved in the new closeness between the Castro regime and the United States.”

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said on Monday that many dissidents had been invited to meet with Vatican officials.

He said he did know that they had been detained.

“Francis was more interested in speaking to oppressors than the oppressed,” Cuban journalist Yusnaby Pérez lamented, “with the same oppressors that banned religion for 20 years.”

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