14ymedio, Havana, 11 February 2023 — The opposition platform D Frente [D Front] thanked Pope Francis this Friday for Vatican Special Envoy Cardinal Beniamino Stella’s asking the Cuban government for “an amnesty or some form of clemency” for Cuba’s political prisoners. Stella, whose visit to the island starting on January 23, followed a strategy of non-confrontation with the regime, culminating in some statements to the international press about the need to release those detained after the massive protests of 11J (11 July 2021).
Last December, knowing that the Pope would send Stella to Cuba to commemorate the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s presence on the island, D Frente had demanded a word from the pontiff about the situation of the incarcerated and the violation of human rights. humans in Cuba. They also called for the mobilization of Francisco’s “good offices” in diplomatic terms to alleviate the country’s economic, social and migratory crisis.
In a statement signed this Friday, D Frente appreciates that the Pope has expressed himself, although through the words of his special envoy. Stella’s request to the Government, they say, is “in tune with the organization’s first work objective”: the freedom of prisoners.
As the text acknowledges, the D Frente platform has been advocating since its creation in September 2022 for a Law on Amnesty and Decriminalization of Dissent, which the platform presented through the Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba – one of its member organizations – with the concept of that amnesty is “the best form” of response that could be expected from the Government.
In addition, D Frente points out that, if this legal mechanism is granted – which Cuba does not have, as Cuba’s Minister of Justice, Oscar Silvera, recently warned – it must be done “immediately and without conditions such as exile or the limitation of the rights”.
The document also defines the NGO’s vision of the future of Cuba as “a country enriched morally, economically, and spiritually,” which will be possible “through the encounter between Cubans, fraternity, freedom, and pluralism that marks our strategy”.
“Attempts to face a painful past, such as dictatorships, are usually historically associated with the debate around their memory, the role of forgetting and forgiveness in transitions and the legitimacy of States when renouncing the retributive justice,” the statement continues.
In addition, D Frente exposes its “reconciliation policy” and calls for a consensus to “replace a single-party dictatorship with a regime of civic liberties, without opening a new period of internal struggles.” In this process, the platform says, the Catholic Church must play an important role as a mediating institution.
The text concludes by demanding “a decriminalization of dissent and the recognition of political pluralism” and insisting on its gratitude to the Vatican, which “echoed” the requests of the platform.
In December 2022, when the Cuban Episcopal Conference announced the visit of Beniamino Stella, Cuban civil society saw an opportunity to expose the country’s situation to an international actor. In fact, in the bishops’ own message, the government was called upon to consider the release of “a good number of those who are in prison” as a gesture of leniency during the end of the year.
D Frente echoed the words of the bishops about the “hunger, loneliness and lack of freedom” that was experienced on the Island and questioned the pontiff with an open letter. Both Francisco’s and Stella’s attitudes have been one of closeness – and even sympathy – towards the Cuban authorities. However, Stella’s statements to the press suggest that he did have a conversation at the highest level about the situation of the prisoners. Miguel Díaz-Canel ’s public response, however, was that he would try to find “a solution to the expectations of both parties.”
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