Guillermo Fariñas Asks Pope to Meet with Cuba's Dissidents

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking that during his upcoming activities and homilies in Cuba he touch on issues such as prisoners' and dissidents' rights and that he meet with opposition figures.

"One should not fail to take advantage of the historic moment to raise with His Holiness a series of problems," Fariñas told Efe on Wednesday, remarking that he wrote the missive on his own account and delivered it on Tuesday to the mission of the papal nuncio in Havana.

Specifically, the opposition member asked the pontiff not to be an "accomplice" of Cuba's Communist regime during his stay on the island and in his homilies and the events he attends to request the "release without exile of all political prisoners" and improvements in "terrible prison conditions."

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The psychologist and independent journalist also asked Benedict XVI to intervene with the Cuban regime to put an end to the "beatings with impunity" of non-violent opposition members and to secure "respect for the law" so that all Cubans can freely enter and leave the country.

Fariñas beseeched the pope to meet with "former political prisoners, wives of (people formerly imprisoned for their ideas), civic opposition members, journalists and independent bloggers."

"We're hopeful that you will place yourself on the side of millions of humble Cubans and in your public homilies will criticize ... thousands of powerful Cubans," the dissident added in the latter.

Fariñas, recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for defending human rights, in 2010 pursued a hunger strike for more than four months after the death of opposition prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo to demand the release of the political prisoners who were most seriously ill.

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Pope Benedict XVI will be in Cuba from March 26-28 and will be the second pontiff to travel to the island after the historic pastoral visit made by John Paul II in 1998.

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