Our Lady of Mercy / Ricardo Medina

ImagenFor the frequent intercession attributed to her by prisons and the prison world, Our Lady of Mercy or The Most Blessed Virgin of mercy, is proclaimed Patron of the Captives, her feast is celebrated September 24, her image dressed in white, with a scapular with a shield embroidered in red, with a cross at the center and topped by a royal crown, in whose hands the image shows broken chains and handcuffs, as a sign of broken bonds, applicable to life in sin, some images may show Jesus or not, and her carrying a child also wearing the scapular, the Church celebrates her feast and as a Major Feast Day, dressed in white.

Mariana is a dedicated, popularized by San Pedro Nolasco, a pious Spaniard who devoted his vast fortune inherited from his parents when he was orphaned at age 20, and decided to serve Jesus Christ in a ministry dedicated to rescuing captive Christians who were arrested by the Muslims. He was able to do his work by pretending to be a merchant in Valencia. In 1203 he declared that he had received a prescient vision of his mission, and he joined with St. Raymond of Peñaford, in an association that ultimately gave rise to “Los Mercedarios,” the Order of Mercy.

In the early hours of August 1st to 2nd in 1218, he declared his second vision this time of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the Virgin asked him to found a religious order dedicated to the liberation of the prisoners which he called “The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives,” — “Order of Mercy” or the “Mercedarios” is the name by which its members are known.

This order of a military character, and later mendicant, because among them its members supported the prisoners by asking for alms in the streets. It’s headquarters was established in the Santa Eulalia Hospital of Barcelona on August 10, 1218, with approval and support of James I, King of the Crown of Aragon (the Conqueror). In 1235 the Order came to be governed by the Rule of St. Augustine and Pedro Nolasco served as its first superior until his death on 14 May 1249 in the city of Barcelona.

For his pious life and work he was canonized by His Holiness Pope Urban VIII, who declared the feast of St. Peter Nolasco to be celebrated on January 28.

Prayer to the most Most Holy Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mercy

Virgin of Mercy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, refuge of the sinful!

To you I draw close, filled with love and confidence, knowing that you always listen to your children, for you are the Mother of Mercy.

I ask of you, dearest Mother, that my faith, hope and charity may grow and strengthen. That I may always live as a true child of God, your son, Madre mía.

I dedicate to you this day all that I have and all that I am: my life, my work, my happiness and my suffering. I want to be completely yours. I want to follow your footsteps along the path that leads me to Christ, our Redeemer and Liberator.

Do not forsake me, Heavenly Mother. Grant what I ask of you from my heart, for me and for all those who suffer imprisonment for their causes. I pledge my everlasting gratitude for your favors and to love you more each day.

Lady of Mercy, pray for me and for all prisoners, and grant them the grace to be freed from the chains of earth and from sin through love for your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.


September 25 2012

A Young Man’s Life Endangered Because of the Holidays / Ricardo Medina

ImagenSerguei Lanza Figueroa, 33 years old, resident of Calle 28 #601, municipality of Cespedes , province of Camagey, discusses his brush with death, after being refused admission to the Manuel Azcunce Domenech Provincial Hospital of Camaguey on July 24, because it was a holiday leading up to the 26th of July. When he presented himself along with his mother Lucia Figueroa Mantilla, suffering from severe appendicitis pain that led to peritonitis, due to rupture of the appendix, he belatedly underwent surgery late on August 4 in the same hospital.

August 6 2012

CUBA, Talit’ cum – I speak to you / Ricardo Medina

Zuleydi Lizbeth Pérez Velázquez

Talitá, cum, is a phrase in Aramaic, a language spoken in Palestine in Jesus’ time, meaning “I speak to you”, and it belongs to the gospel of Mark 5, 21-43, and the church has set it has aside for us to meditate this week.

This gospel tells us the story of a woman, who, for twelve years, had been suffering from hemorrhages caused by some anomaly in her menstrual cycle, and in the middle of a crowd, she came up to Jesus from behind and touched his hand seeking health. She had already used up of all her resources going to different doctors, and none of them had been able to find out about her condition, especially since in those times women were excluded in society.

Coincidentally, since 4:00 pm on Saturday, June 30, Zuleydi Lizbeth Pérez Velázquez, a well-known activist of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID) and of the Laura Pollán Ladies in White Movement, in Holguín, had been facing harassment from the political police and its repressive agents, who seek to ingratiate themselves and to gain perks, so that they can act as deliberately as they please, protected by the shield of the insecurity of the State, spent 20 hours monitoring Lizbeth to stop her from participating in her demand for freedom for all the political prisoners, along with the Ladies in White. A group of activists from CID did not hesitate in offering their support and converged on her modest dwelling showing their support. During the act of coercion from the political police and the state security agents, Lizbeth and her family were not alone; Hoguín’s CID supported them.

Jesus’ answer was: “Daughter, your faith has cured you. Go now in peace and health“. There was no scolding from his side as the poor woman may have thought, as she walked fearfully towards him. Jesus asked: “Who has touched my cloak?” The story tells that at that precise moment Jairus, the chief of the synagogue, arrived to ask for a prayer for his very ill daughter, who had been reported dead. “Don’t be afraid; it’s enough to have faith,” was Jesus’ answer.

After Jesus said Talitá, cum, the girl began to talk and walk, and became healthy.

San Pedro, summarizes the healings and resurrections carried out by Christ throughout his life, saying: “He went doing good“. This is, then, a call for health and faith, to which we are all invited to continue healing and removing prejudices toward political and social affiliations, and creeds.

We have to keep in mind that the Creator saw good in everything, as he spread encouragement for life in the universe; the man (his image), second to God in the Creation, has the responsibility to continue filling the world with good and life. We cannot stop making this call, as long as men and women remain imprisoned for claiming their rights. Rights also for those have bags full of food, and the people next to them suffer from hunger and needs.

We are the ones who have to keep the balance, and the harmony among all.

Pope Paul VI said in his homilies:Christ is the center of history and of all things; he got to know us and he loves us; he is companion and friend of our lives, a man of pain and hopes, and eventually our judge; and according to our level of trust, He is also our fulfillment and our bliss.

Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the king of the new world, the hidden and supreme reason of human history and of our future fate.

Jesus would say today, Talitá, cum – I speak to you Cuba; You, man, women, elderly, Cuban, wherever you are, must assume your Christian responsibility, acquired by you or by your parents on the day of your baptism; do not stain with blood or hatred your soul for those who erroneously have imposed on you a rule of life, for more than half a century, which the world already recognizes does not work, and its imposer publicly recognized it as wrong.

CUBA, Talitá, cum – I speak to you.

Published on Cuba CID

Translated by Chabeli

July 2 2012

Pollution in Santa Clara / Ricardo Medina

ImagenThe well-known Bélico River in Santa Clara is showing, in these rainy days, the pollution in the city of Marta, causing astonishment among the people passing by and the rest of the population.

Santa Clara, capital of the Villa Clara province, was founded on July 15, 1689, under the shade of a tamarind tree, by 14 families from the village of San Juan de Los Remedios who declared its foundation after a public mass. This took place in what is now Parque del Carmen, named after the church that stood there, and where a tamarind tree was kept in place to honor the historical fact.

It was the capital city of Las Villas (Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and Santi Espíritus) before the last political-administrative border division* given by the so-called revolutionary process; the splendor of this city was always contagious to its visitors, and it distinguished itself by its hospitality, and the cleanliness of its streets and residents.

The Train Memorial

The Bélico River, cuts through the city; it was a navigable river, where Mrs. Marta Abreu Esteves, benefactor of the city, created public laundry sinks for the poor women. The sinks were later tarnished with the building of the Minerva and Ochoa dam, another Castro invention that ruined my beloved hometown.

The images published on this post denounce by themselves the health authorities of Santa Clara and of the province of Villa Clara, the waste management services, and the office of the monuments; in the background of the images, you can see the monument to The Armored Train, and there it says “triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution” and there, a question comes to my mind: “Aren’t the monuments also interested in the hygiene of the city?”

I share this enormous pain with people from this place. In my Free Cuba, I want Santa Clara and the city of Marta free of pollution and dirt, and for that I will work.

Note: For more pictures visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/cubacid/

Ricardo Santiado Medina

CID Cuba – http://www.cubacid.org

*Translator’s note: Before the Revolution Cuba had 6 provinces, it now has 15.

Translator: Chabeli

June 26 2012

June 24 Day of the Godparent (Feast of Saint John the Baptist) / Ricardo Medina

ImagenAccording to custom immemorial the Church has highlighted the personality John the Baptist in the life of Jesus, to these ends it marked his celebration on June 24th, for being the precursor of the Messiah and he who baptized Him at the shores of the river Jordan, the condemnation against Herod Antipas Tetrarch of Galilee for marrying Herodias, wife of his half-brother, provoked the ire of Herodes and he was incarcerated (Luke 3, 1-20), and later was decapitated by request of Salome, daughter of Herod and Herodias (Matthew 14, 3-11).

Saint John the Baptist appears represented in the religious imagery dressed in a lamb skin, carrying a staff and a parchment with the words Ecce Agnus Dei “This is the Lamb of God”.

Many are the traditions, I recall my great-grandparents and my grandparents would save old junk pieces that would break during the year and on that day they would make a bonfire in the yard and would burn them, whilst someone in the family would recite or pray El Pregon del Bautista (Proclamation of the Baptist), as a sign of a new beginning; this day also marks for others, the beginning of bathing in the beach, alluding to the fact that the jellyfish retire from the Caribbean, since they provoke skin irritations in bathers.

Many Catholic Christians, practicing and confessing, and the populace itself, don’t know that the 24th of June is the Day of the Godparents, a feast established by His Holiness Pius XII, who in the founding ceremony said: “Make certain that the godmother and the godfather be fervent Catholics so they be completely conscious of the duties they acquire of perpetually having entrusted (the spiritual child) the Godchild, and to care diligently for however much refers to the formation of the Christian faith, so that this be demonstrated throughout all their existence just as they promised in the solemn ceremony that should have been endeavoring also their religious education”.

This feast, aside from promoting the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, is created in order to seek in society the respect, the personality and the veneration toward the godparents, who through these Sacraments can fulfill the functions of Father and Mother in absence of one’s own and tries to tighten the bonds of union between families each day more through the spiritual kinship between Godparents and Godchildren.

The symbol of this feast is the White Dove, having descended the Holy Spirit in this form over the head of Christ in the moment He was baptized by John in the river Jordan.

Let us have on this date a remembrance for our Godfathers and Godmothers who through the sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation assumed the responsibility of being our second parents before God.

Congratulations Godmother!

Congratulations Godfather!


Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 26 2012

They deposited a formal request for investigation into the murder of Juan Wilfredo Soto Graca / Ricardo Medina

Abdel Rodriguez Arteaga, Vice Presidentof the Cuba Independent and Democratic Party, gave to the Attorney General’s Office, at noon, July 11th, a document in support of the request for investigation to the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia. The original request was made by two priests on June 8th.

Copies of the document, presented by Rodriguez Arteaga, were delivered to the State Council, Ministry of Interior and Justice, and were accompanied by a hundred signatures in support of the request for investigation to the death of Soto Garcia, presented by the priests: Ricardo Santiago Medina Lleonart Salabarria and Mario Felix Barroso,on June 8th.

The letter dated July 8, states that the signatories ask the Attorney General to exercise his powers to:

1) Give a public explanation from the Cuban government of this lamentable event.

2) Restore the Methodist Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado to his pastoral ministry and to his rectory in the Methodist Church: “The Trinity” of Santa Clara. Bishop Ricardo Pereira Diaz, (Bishop of the Methodist Church in Cuba) removed him under pressure from the Department Religious Affairs, Ministry of Justice, after the minister attended the funeral of Soto Garcia.

Copies of this document were given, in addition to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, to His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, and Bishop Ricardo Pereira Diaz, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Cuba.

Translated by Hank Hardisty

June 11 2011

Condemning the Attitude of Bishop Ricardo Pereira, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Cuba / Ricardo Medina

Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.

Psalm 25:21 King James Bible

At 10:34 PM I received a text message from my brother the Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado in which he told me: “Bishop Pereira and Oscar Carpio Licea (administrator) threaten my family with possible eviction this coming Saturday, the Methodist pulpits are used against me and to defend the corrupt-communist bishop.”

Sadly, I have a duty to support Yordi and condemn the attitude of Bishop Pereira and his cabinet, and his confabulations with the organs of State Security, who I am certain are using some perks as blackmail, they have organized and executed a campaign to recall Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collago, who was rector of “La Trinidad” Methodist Church in Santa Clara.

One thing I guarantee is that Bishop Pereira is being extorted by the repressive forces of the regime, Ricardo Pereira never, and I repeat never, has been a Communist nor a Castroite, to the contrary he has always shown himself to be against Castro-Communism.

Yordi, it is not only Pereira, Yordi has numerous pastors who support him and will continue to support him, the minister is not removed, you have suspended Yordi Alberto Toranzo from the ministry but he will continue faithfully working for the extension of the Reign of God in Cuba.

Pereira you have given your soul over to evil, you haven’t learned how to distinguish between Holy things and the forces of evil, once again I ask you to remember your vows before the people of God, today is the time, tomorrow will be too late, reflect on the light of the Holy Spirit, assess your attitude, and if you decide to confront the evil I will support you.

We want Yordi.

July 5 2011

Rest in Peace Monsignor++Pedro Claro Meurice Estíu / Ricardo Medina

… I should introduce to you the nation that lives here and lives in the diaspora; Cubans suffer, live and hope here and also suffer, live, and hope out there.  We are a single people that, navigating the seas on logs, continues to look for unity… 

Mons. ++ Pedro Claro Meurice Estíu 24/1/98 (Words of welcome to His Holiness Pope John Paul II)

Monsignor Pedro Claro Meurice Estíu and His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Cuba.

In my life there have been three great moments that I consider historical: kissing the hands and personally meeting three people that live in the presence of God today. Two of them already decorate the Altar.

The first was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, at the consecration of the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Regla; she has been beatified by the Church.

The second was His Holiness Pope John Paul II, at the mass in Santa Clara on 22 January 1998, when Mons. +Fernando Prego (blessed memory) asked him to bless an image of Saint Joseph, after which all the monks, nuns, priests, seminarians, and bishops present kissed the episcopal ring, he gave his apostolic blessing to each of us and presented us with a blessed rosary.

The third was Mons. ++Meurice Estíu (Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba). Accompanied by another saint, Mons. Modesto Peña Paz, I served him as master of ceremonies during mass. He had already been asked to end mass with the Salve in Latin to the Patron of Cuba and he generously accepted. When we finished service and arrived to the sacristy, we saluted each other. He thanked me for serving at the altar; he congratulated me and we hugged. I cried with emotion because I knew I was in the presence of a holy man who did not know fear. During my prison time I remembered a phrase that whispered in my ear while he hugged me and patted my back: Forward, forward!

For your example of life, your bravery to publicly claim and report the needs of your people and for that wonderful opportunity that I will never forget, in which I assisted you at God’s altar. Thank you Mons. Meurice.

Today, 21 July, I cannot explain what I feel in this moment. It is a mix of pain at his parting, intertwined with happiness for the freedom that he already experimented with; but I make my pleas before the altar of God for his soul’s eternal rest, while I hope that the Church will surprise me by lifting him to the glory of the Altar.


Thank you for your example of life

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share the Eucharist together with you

Thank you for the eloquence of your word and your example of humility

Rest in peace

Your faithful servant, Fr. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria+

Translated by: M. Ouellette

July 21 2011

Cuban Olympic Medalist: From Glory to Misery / Ricardo Medina

In Cuba we have all very carefully followed, in one way or another, the 2011 Panamerican Games in Guadalajara, not so much for the love of sport, but because there are no other entertainment options. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Cuban commentators politicise them heavily, which is bordering on indecency.

The government and the broadcasters have glorified the standing of our athletes in the medal count and categorised this ‘as an achievement of the revolution’. Fidel Castro issued ‘thoughts’ which have been read to the nation several times in all the radio and TV media operating on the island. In it, he makes unbalanced comparisons in terms of population, size of the territory and the number of medals won.

That’s when I remember the case of the silver medalist from the Special Olympics that took place in Beijing, China, in 2007. I’m talking about Rauler Castellanos Moreno, a black youth from Pinar del Rio who, despite his victory in this competition, now lives in inhuman conditions.

His house, with dirt floors, has a rudimentary table with very few utensils and no food to cook whatsoever. He has a small hotplate for an “electric stove”, his closet is an egg crate. His mattress is made of jute sack stuffed with dried banana leaves. His windows are improvised from a badly constructed palisade as protection from wind and rain.

This is the reward for bringing the HOMELAND a silver jewel which was – like those of the Cuban team that travelled to Guadalajara on this occasion – loudly celebrated. Meanwhile, Rauler Castellanos and his life were forgotten by everyone.

Rauler Castellanos got to know other places, made ​​new friends, and upon his return was greeted with a certificate of recognition given by The Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER). Today, he shows in dismay the photos of that event to his friends, and shrouds himself with the country’s insignia recalling his efforts and success. However, he went, like so many others – from glory to misery.

Translated by: Branislava Vladisavljevic

2 November 2011

Proud to Serve Laura Pollan After Her Death / Ricardo Medina

Ultima foto del cuerpo de Laura Pollán, tomada por el Rev. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría

Last photo of the body of Laura Pollan, taken by the Rev. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría

On the rainy afternoon of October 14 Laura Ines Pollan Toledo went to dwell in her Father’s house, without the cause of her death stated.

The independent journalist Lucas Garves was visiting my house when he received a call on his cell phone. It was the former prisoner of conscience Adolfo Fernández Saínz, from Radio Marti, wanting to confirm the news that Laura had suffered a cardiac arrest. We were not even aware of it, but promised to find out immediately.

I called Berta Soler but her cell phone said it was turned off or out of the coverage area. I managed to contact Laurita, Laura’s daughter, and she confirmed the news. She was on her way to Calixto Garcia hospital. Lucas went to the hospital and promised to keep us informed. He called his when he arrived and let us know she had died fifteen minutes earlier. My wife Katia was overcome by tears and I offered my first prayers for the eternal rest of her soul. And we started a communications network with all the delegated of the Cuban Independent and Democratic Party (CIS) at the national level.

Katia and Aimé Cabrales left for the hospital, fearing that the political police would prevent them from participating in the funeral. Once there it was still not known what they were going to do with Laura’s lifeless body. Two options were assessed: holding a wake and cremating it, or cremating it without a wake. Fortunately, they resolved to hold a wake and announced it would be in the funeral home at Calzada and K in Vedado. Katia informed me right away.

I left for the hospital with Abdel Rodríguez Arteaga to wait for the transfer of the body. Arriving there, we decided to continue to Calzada and K. We took a taxi. On arriving in Vedado, only the funeral home was without electricity. The park in front was packed with State Security agents. Berta told us to go to the national funeral home at Infanta and Benjumeda in Central Havana. So we continued in the same taxi and started to communicate with Yoani Sanchez and promised to inform her of any changes.

At the funeral home they were already expecting the news agencies. We waited for the body until after midnight. I coordinated with the clerk to provide us a Cuban flag to cover the coffin, and to not have to return to my house, two blocks away, for fear of being arrested. She undertook to provide it.

The cadaver arrives and they asked for two people to go and dress her. I asked permission to place with her a rosary that had been given to me in the Holy Land. Katia brought a dozen gladioli that were in my house. I went to where she was and was perplexed to see the degree of inflammation in the body. I discovered that they had lied on the medical reports when they said her kidney function was perfect; the edema could have been resolved with diuretics and I honestly believe that they didn’t do so for two reasons:

1 – Because fluid retention inhibits lung capacity, reduces blood flow and causes cardiopulmonary arrest.

2 – Because in the case where it does not cause cause cardiopulmonary arrest, the lack of oxygen to the brain leaves severe brain sequelae; Laura would then be a vegetable.

Two people came in to prepare her. Berta gave me the clothes and I dressed the lifeless body of my sister Laura. I put the rosary in her hands and on the left side three gladioli, symbols of her fight for the release of all the political prisoners. Berta painted her lips; I put on her eye make-up and combed her hair. I asked for help from the workers at the funeral home and they refused. Not even offering them money convinced them to help me; they only put her in the coffin. Berta kissed her forehead; I did the same telling her she would always be with us.

Then I took the last photo of the lifeless body of Laura Pollan (which illustrates this post).

We went to the chapel. There were close to two hundred people at the funeral home. I asked for the flag and the clerk refused, saying it was just for combatants. I found Maceda (Laura’s husband); he asked me to be present at the cremation and I accepted with honor. I asked everyone in the chapel to pray the rosary with me for the eternal rest of her soul. Then did so with great devotion. The Ladies in White present maintained an honor guard; then it was the turn of the former prisoners, and in general everyone present.

At 1:45 AM a State Security official and a funeral home employee with a cart came to take the body. I talked to Angel Moya and Berta and we three went to meet them saying we were told we would have two hours. I found Hector Maceda who had agreed to the request and we refused. Maceda asked for 15 more minutes. So, at 2:15 am we solemnly sang the national anthem. Next, the body was lowered, a moment I took advantage of to take a hair sample and particles of skin which I friend will take to a foreign laboratory in hopes of finding out the true cause of Laura Pollan’s death, because the medical certificate never listed dengue fever as the cause. Instead it said “Type 2 diabetes mellitus, broncho-pneumonia, Cincinnati virus.”

We did not see Laura’s body again. They took us to the crematorium of the new cemetery in Guanabacoa. According to State Security the body should be reviewed by legal medicine to approve the cremation. On arriving at the cemetery a State Security official saw us coming from the doorway and hid himself in an office where later — when the went in carrying a tray of coffee — we saw four more. Afterward I saw the hearse enter; I asked the clerk and she confirmed, “yes, that is your case.” Berta and I asked to see Laura’s body one last time. A very energetic lady told us it was forbidden. I contradicted her saying I had information about a peephole where one could see the process. She repeated firmly, “It is forbidden.”

Maceda asked us to be disciplined and to go with him into the waiting room. We agreed as he was the one directly bereaved. The overbearing lady brought in Laura’s earrings and a hair clasp and Maceda signed as proof that her belongings were returned to him.

They told us the process was over. Maceda asked me to receive the ashes and enthrone them in his house where he had announced that the book of condolences would be open at 9:00 am. It was almost 5:00 am when we got to the headquarters of the Ladies in White, Laura’s and Hector’s house. About fifty people were already there. We hung up the flag. Angel Moya and I cleared off a table where we placed the urn.

Among those present was Diosdado González (another of the 75), my former companion from prison. I greeted him and his wife, Alejandrina García de la Riva.

At 6:00 am we all prayed the rosary with Laurita (Laura Pollan’s daughter). To comply with the wishes of her mother, she announced she had decided to divide the ashes: one part would be taken to the family vault in Manzanillo; the other would be spread in a field of flowers. The ashes were not exposed because Maceda considered it counterproductive to do so. Laurita took the urn to Manzanilla. Then, on Sunday morning, she reported that she had deposited them with those of the Pollan family.

A 9:30 I led another prayer of the rosary, and at noon we prayed the Angelus for the soul of Laura with the Hole Response.

Flower arrangement dedicated to Laura Pollan, broken and thrown into the public street. Photo: Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría.

I returned to my house with a bouquet of white flowers that would be taken to Santa Rita church on Sunday, an action we were not able to complete because Katia, Aimé Cabrales, Elizabeth Kawooya Toca, Abdel Rodríguez Arteaga, Hans Delgado Arteaga and Juan Manuel Lara Vidal were arbitrarily arrested on leaving my house. During the arrest Lieutenant Juan of State Security broke the flower arrangement in the public street.

All that is left for me is to pray for eternal rest of her soul, to continue her tireless struggle, to support the collective of women she founded after the vents of the Cuban Black Spring (2003), and that she led for eight long years. I continue to offer my humble abode as an alternative site for the Ladies in White and will live with the confidence that Laura Pollan Toledo will remain forever among us.

October 18 2011

Divine Providence and the Assassination of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia / Ricardo Medina

“Life is worth nothing
if I ignore that the assassin
took a different path
and is preparing another ambush.
– Pablo Milanes

When I retrospectively analyze my pastoral relationship with Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, I discover that neither international forces or media campaigns were interested in him. Instead, God, who is never neutral before the situations which humans face, was the one who was very interested in this man. And he was preparing me so that I could be the Samaritan, seeing as they had already tossed him alongside the path.

I met THE STUDENT (the nickname by which he was introduced to me) in March of 2010. Orlando Zapata Tamayo had just died on February 23rd as consequence of the authorities ignoring his rights as a striker. Moved by events such as these, which are nothing new in Cuba as seen by antecedent and appalling deaths like that of Pedro Luis Boitel, I found out about the Hunger and Thirst Strike which Guillermo Farinas decided to undergo. Understanding that God does not let actions such as these go by unnoticed, and while spiritually burning my desire to present myself at the epicenter of all these happenings with the Gospel in order to liberate, and using the divinities left by Jesus on the Sermon of the Mount, I made myself present, equipped with two very powerful weapons–the Bible and prayer.

Juan Wilfredo was a good friend from the intimate circle of Guillermo Farinas. I can’t recall visiting the hospital and not seeing THE STUDENT there. During the days in which the survival of Guillermo constituted an authentic miracle, Juan Wilfredo did not move at all from the hospital-neither day nor night.

From the very first moment in which THE STUDENT heard me read the Bible and pray to God so that He may bring salvation onto all the souls involved in the issue as well as reconciliation among all Cubans, (Juan Wilfredo) approached me with his very Cuban spontaneity which he always had when he would give me a hug and when he would express his most profound admiration. Since then, he treated me with the same fidelity he treated Coco (Farinas), despite the fact that, as opposed to me, he had known Coco for a very long time–ever since childhood in fact–when they would play basketball together in the Palace of the Pioneers and having been his neighbor for nearly 17 years.

Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel

“Thank you, Pastor, for accompanying us and bring us God. Not everyone does that,” he would flatter me during each of my visits. I would explain to him that what I was doing did not surge from my own kindness nor from my limited bravery, but instead that it came straight from God, who is the one that puts the desire of wanting and doing into each of his children.

“I am the one who admires you, for your fidelity towards your friend, and because of the fact that, despite your legs being so swollen, you have not moved from this hospital”, I would respond to him, impressed by his authentic friendship, and that human valor which is pointed out in the Bible. “At all times, love your friend. And he will be like a brother in times of anguish.” (Proverbs 17.1)

Wilfredo was not the only one. Evidently, that man who languished in the Intensive Care Unit had known how to cultivate true friends who were willing to give their lives for him if it would have been necessary, for this, in fact, was what he was doing for more than fifty prisoners, some of who he did not even know personally. But God wanted it so that, from his circle of friends, Wilfredo would be the one that I would befriend the most. I quickly learned about his health ailments: hypertension, gout, diabetes, and dilated myocardium. It was difficult to believe that a man so corpulent and with such a strong spirit actually suffered from all these things. The majority of his ailments were scars left from mistreatment he suffered during periods of imprisonment, which (under three different causes) summed up to 3 times, adding up to 12 difficult years in total, which began in 1984 when he was only 18 years old and was barely even a high school student (Which is where he gets the nickname THE STUDENT from). He was then sentenced to 4 years for the first time under the accusation of “Enemy Propaganda”- a sentence which he served in the section for minors of the Manacas prison.

Mrs. Montiel, mother of Jorge Luis. Hopefully she will not be another mother who will mourn in this story.

I was so moved by his ailments that in addition to my spiritual priority over his life–during this year I was simply his pastor–I did all that I could to get him the medicines he needed. For this reason he handed me a Clinical History Report which I sent out to fellow pastors abroad so that they could help me. Despite the fact that Juan Wilfredo was from Santa Clara and that I am from Taguayabon, he visited me a couple of times as a display of profound admiration. He always told me about his desire to assist the church which I am a pastor of, despite the distance. But I recommended that he assist other excellent organizations which reside in Santa Clara, which he did every once in a while. THE STUDENT also established relationships with other Cuban pastors, and even foreign ones. I am omitting their names because I do not have their permission to mention them, but I do know that they feel just as shocked as me because of this arbitrary death.

On Thursday, July 8th 2010, when the Cuban government had not other option but to publish an article in Granma about the liberation of all the prisoners from the group of the 75, which led to the conclusion of Guillermo Farina’s strike; Wilfredo abandoned that battlefield of peaceful struggle which the hospital had been converted into, and returned to that other place which, with his small town spirit, he felt was his: the Leoncio Vidal Park of Santa Clara.

His status of former political prisoner on the one hand, and as a sick person on the other, forced him to survive in this place, immersed in the black market. As a part of my job as a professor at theological institutions, I travel weekly to Santa Clara. God allowed Wilfredo and I to meet weekly, each Wednesday, which strengthened our personal friendship and facilitated my pastoral relationship with him. But neither of us imagined the situation for which God was preparing us.

The day before the beating, Wednesday May 4, Juan Wilfredo and I had our usual meeting in the park where, as always, he made me aware of his health. Despite his chronic illnesses he was feeling quite well and was eager to fight for survival in the sense that we Cubans understand. His biggest concern was his mother who had recently had surgery for a hip fracture. We prayed for her. Little did we imagine our last meeting the following day and under embarrassing circumstances I will never forget.

Like every Thursday in recent months, I was accompanying a patient to outpatient treatment at Oncology Hospital of Santa Clara. This hospital facility is located halfway between the center of the city, where the park and the Hospital “Arnaldo Milian” Hospital are, where Wilfredo went shortly after eleven in the morning.

He wanted the Divine providence that I, Juan Wilfredo’s pastor, with whom he had maintained a relationship that significantly affected the last year of his life; I had spoken with him just the day before, and seen that he felt fine; I had a fully activated Twitter account, @maritovoz, with the ability to publish one hundred forty characters from my phone, without direct access to the internet; one day earlier he had put money on my phone which, for more than twenty days had remained at virtually zero, coinciding in time and place with my beaten friend, I felt the need to denounce the abuse in that tweet published at 11:55 AM on that sad May 5.

It was John Wilfred, from the bicycle taxi in which he was traveling, I first made out. As if to confirm that, despite the violence and disorder that yet reign in this world, there is a God interested in our suffering, whether physical or spiritual, he stopped the bicycle taxi to approach me as one who found the very same doors to the sky open.

“These people killed me, Pastor. They beat me with billy clubs. I’m going to the hospital because I can not stand the pain,” Juan Wilfredo said, obviously physically and spiritually broken. It wasn’t the same as the previous day, the difference was a result of that beating. I harbor no doubt about that and am willing to testify before any court willing to offer justice to Juan Wilfredo and recognize my right as an eye-witness; otherwise, what was I doing posting a tweet of that nature the morning of the crime, when I couldn’t anticipate such fateful consequences from the impiety.

The wound in the head of Héctor Duniesky Bermudes Santana

Héctor Duniesky Bermudes Santana

The patient I was accompanying heard the difficult words of THE STUDENT. Despite his own ailments he could sense the urgency and seriousness of what he was telling us and was extremely affected. We had come out into the street at that precise moment but we hadn’t finished our business. I was caught between two human beings who needed me.

“What a situation you’ve put me in, STUDENT! I can’t let you go alone like this, but I can’t abandon this person I’m with who is depending on me,” I told him anxiously.

“Do not worry, Pastor, I didn’t call you to accompany me. I would be grateful if you would alert someone who can go with me, if you can let Coco know,” he reassured me.

“You can count on that Wilfredo, hurry to the hospital and I’ll get Coco know to let your family know right away,” I told him.

The last thing I remember is that bicycle taxi and John Wilfredo moving away from us forever. Then I found in my inquiries that the bicycle taxi driver that was taking him is a member of one of the churches of the city, but so far he hasn’t been able to overcome his fear and is not disposed to offer declarations, like the other witnesses. I have hopes that this terrified brother, and many more, will set aside their fear because, as it says in the scripture, “In love there is not fear, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear exists in peril, and he that fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4.18).”

After this unforgettable encounter with THE STUDENT I turned back to helping the patient I was accompanying, and once re-situated I sent a text message to Guillermos Farinas mobile phone to complete the last favor Wilfredo asked of me. No satisfied with my inevitable decision to leave him to continue alone, I felt a deep need to at least send a tweet broadcasting his complaint. It would not be the first time I had sent a tweet to denounce some abuse. Sadly, many of these tweets have fallen into oblivion without being given the importance due to them. We are so used to this kind of news, that the beatings have come to seem as normal in Cuba as its royal palms. Sadly, someone has to die for the world to react, and this time it was our unforgettable John Wilfredo.

After sending the messages and confident that doctors, many friends and family would look after him, I continued in my duties and routines until eventually I fully confirmed what Juan Wilfredo told me was not a boast or a fake victim. I understood when he told me, “These people have killed me, my Pastor …” John Wilfredo was not speaking metaphorically but horribly literally, but many people did believe or want to help him. The further confirmation that what he said was the truth was his painful death.

Little did I imagine that this trip Juan Wilfredo took to the “Arnaldo Milian” Hospital had been unsuccessful, and on the orders of State Security, when he first arrived at the hospital, attending physician staff quickly dispatched him after just measuring your blood pressure. Hector Bermudez Duniesky Santana, who was stoned on Tuesday, March 10, received a head injury, was one of those who was a witness to the scene and after exchanging after receiving a 10 head injury, was who had to witness the scene, and after confronting the police with a few words he took Juan Wilfredo home in his car. Others also affirm having seen troops of Cuban intelligence in the park at the time of the terrible events, supporting the hypothesis that we are in the presence of a kind of execution.

Perhaps even more criminal that the beating itself is the fact that those who should have fulfilled their medical oath preferred to abide by other orders and did not provide the care Wilfredo urgently needed, he wasn’t even given an ultrasound. When, the following day, THE STUDENT was taken back to the hospital by his family, it was already too late. His belly was full of liquid, the acid from his pancreas, injured by the beating, had leaked out and was eating away at the pancreas itself the liver, and perhaps even his kidneys and bladder.

The assessment made by Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet (+535-276-9405) may be helpful in this regard; he has made a very scientific assessment about what usually happens when the pancreas is damages by some external effect, as in this case. The efforts of the ICU were useless, the damage was irreversible, and he ended up–like Orlando Zapata Tamayo at the end–first at the Canaguey Hospital and then at the Military Hospital at Combinado del Este, from where he was finally taken to die at the Almeijeira Hospital.

The death of John Wilfredo had begun in countdown when people in uniform, as Gen. Raul Castro called the police, clubbed him with their billy clubs. And it was accelerated when, desperately knocking on the doors of an institution of public health, he was sent home to die.

Roughly speaking, this is all I have to say about the dramatic death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, whom divine providence has wanted to surround with witnesses like myself. Another issue related to this would be the suicide, that same Mother’s Day Sunday at the tomb where we buried Wilfredo, of the patrol officer Alexis whom the people of Santa Clara associated with the beating of THE STUDENT. According to rumors in the neighborhood, after two suspected visits of State Security to the officer, he ended up shooting himself.

If the widespread rumors were true this is a telling example that the government encourages its people to violence: the family of a peaceful opponent, and that of a policeman, both mourning forever, and I don’t even want to think about these mothers just breathing in the tragedy on a day that should be celebrated.

I will not again, I did in previous post, relate the vileness with which the regime followed the crime with its three desperate declarations in the newspaper Granma, manipulating declarations, masking facts, questioning my words and those of the other thirty witnesses willing to testify, although the government has not publicly mentioned our names. I personally feel disrepected as a citizen.

In rebutting my testimony, I consider they are also questioning me and the religious institutions I represent. If I am a liar I should be judged as such and expelled from the ministries that I would then be unworthy to participate in. I feel aggrieved by the regime and continue to affirm it is responsible for the beating of Juan Wilfredo and I demand an investigation by impartial institutions of international character. I challenge the Cuban regime once again in the name of God and demand they rove which of us is lying.

Local congregations and communities in which I am a pastor, the Association of Western Cuba Baptist Convention that officially recognized me as a pastor, and seminaries where I teach need to know who is the liar here. If I am, then I should be barred from continuing; but if it is the government, as I assert, then they are invalidated to continue governing.

I see protection in believing in a God who gave his blood to every victim, from the ancient story of Cain and Abel, none has gone unnoticed. He greatly loves justice and truth. He promises: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5.6).” On their behalf I am raising my voice for Juan Wilfredo, this death will not go unpunished.

Pastor Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso

Translated by Raul G.

May 30 2011

We Want Yordi in Santa Clara / Ricardo Medina

The Methodist Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado, rector of “Trinity” Church in the city of Santa Clara. Source: Google Images.

Seeking the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, has been the Methodist Pastor Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado,, rector of the “Trinity” Church in the city of Santa Clara, who swore before the Altar of God to seek the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness. The same inscription is in a stained glass image of Jesus with outstretched arms, leading the church whose rector, with the consent of the Holy Spirit, Yordi leads in that city, this image offers a welcome to the people of Santa Clara who pass in front of the temple and gather there.

So the Rev. Yordi Alberto Toranzo Collado, encouraged by the sense of justice, left his house and walked a few blocks to join the grieving family of Soto García, Sunday May 8, the feast of Mother’s Day, as he does and is called on to do, not only as a minister of God, but to all the baptized.

It is sad to see how Monseñor Ricardo Pereira Díaz, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Cuba, a few days later and prompted by fear of State Security through the Department of Attention to Religious Matters and the Ministry of Justice and the Council of State, called for the removal of the pastor to the town of Santa Cruz del Norte, of Havana province. It is painful that an authority of the Church of Christ for the Republic of Cuba serves the government better than he serves his flock and their pastors.

Monseñor Pereira, I am a witness of this town of Santa Clara, where the adages of contempt continued against the temple, the sign that announced the Municipal Party Headquarters, the place which was operated as the Methodist Church in Cuba, I remember as a child (because I am from Santa Clara), how the workers of the Municipal Part bought eggs and called the children studying the Mariano Clemente Prado primary school, located across from the church, to through the eggs at the Reverent Pedro Mayor and his wife Ana Luise whom I remember with much fondness.

Now as a priest of Christ I do not understand, nor will I ever understand, the position you have taken agasint Yordi, his place is to be at the side of justice and I am very sure that this is being denied by the ministry in which you preside. Reflect and ask for the light of the Holy Spirit and say with us:

“We want Yordi in Santa Clara.”

June 28 2011