14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2017 — Berta Soler, after meeting this Wednesday with Archbishop of Havana Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, said that he has offered his full support to the Ladies in White and that the prelate told her he had asked the Government to sit down and talk to the opposition.
“We ask the Catholic Church to speak out, because whoever is silent supports [the government], and he said to me: ‘No Berta, silence is not always support. We have asked the Cuban Government to sit down and talk to the opposition, but what we say is one thing and what they do is another,” Soler told 14ymedio.
Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, and Maria Cristina Labrada, a member of the organization, met with Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez early Wednesday morning and the Archbishop told them that that during the trip from their Lawton headquarters they were “monitored by a large operation made up of the National [Revolutionary] Police and State Security.”
According to Soler’s account, at the meeting the Archbishop was “very receptive” to the movement’s complaints, and they explained to the prelate how they are systematically prevented from reaching the church to attend mass and are victims of abuse such as thefts and fines for “violating the security cordon of the Communist Party of Cuba” when they leave their homes.
“We were able to give him some names and surnames of those who have told us that we could never go to mass at any church,” she added.
María Cristina Labrada and Berta Soler received from the hands of the Archbishop “a family Bible with a dedication for each of us,” and they gave him “a CD and two reports with evidence of repression” suffered by the women’s movement and their families. Both left the door open for a future second meeting.
Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez was named Archbishop of Havana in April of last year after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Jaime Ortega and Alamino who retired, as established by the Code of Canon Law, after having reached the age of 75.
A few weeks after taking office, Garcia Rodríguez generated a bitter controversy in declaring that he did not want Cuba to “have capitalism or anything like that, but that socialism should progress” to go “forward in a just and balanced society and one of brotherhood.”