Letter to His Holiness Benedict XVI requesting reconsideration of his trip to Cuba / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Thursday, January 26, 2012

To: His Holiness Benedict XVI.
Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.
Head of the Vatican State.

From: Ignacio Estrada Cepero
Executive Director of the Cuban League against AIDS.
Human Rights Ombudsman.

With joy and great rejoicing the Catholic population in Cuba received the news of your visit to the island, a second pastoral visit to the Greater Antilles. Your predecessor, our beloved John Paul II on his first apostolic visit, gave us, or gave us back, that hope that our leaders had taken from us. He awoke smiles, displays of gratitude, tears and was allowed to hear even some voices that enthusiastic cheered, shouting “Vivas” to the Virgin and cries of freedom.

There is a difference in your first trip in the coming month of March when you want to visit Cuba. You begin your visit by arriving in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba where you will began your papal visit at the feet of the patron and mother of Cubans, and by this act receive the thanks of every Catholic, but what if you do not appreciate, is that you will shake the bloody hands of the current president of the Cuban nation, who is sure to be welcoming you. You may not know that the province where you will arrive is the home of a young prisoner of 31 who recently died of a prolonged hunger strike to demand our rights. You may also be unaware that in this eastern province police forces have entered the church buildings over which you preside to arrest people and stop the services. You may also be unaware of the escalation of police violence against Catholic women clad in white who visit the national shrine of the Virgin to ask for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba.

Here are some of the reasons why you should reconsider your trip to the island, however I also want to argue that your visit also will result in more police control the streets of Cuba, more detention and arrests, the taking beggars and alcoholics off of Cuba’s streets, actions that they will take only to try to show you a different nation from the one in which the Cuban Catholic people really live daily.

The Cuban League Against AIDS, an organization that advocates for full respect for human rights applied to HIV / AIDS asks you to reconsider your  travel to our nation, a country that still confines over 500 prisoners with HIV / AIDS in six prisons. Inmates who despite living with the disease receive harsh sentences for minor offenses and who while serving their sentences are not guaranteed adequate medical care, and who also lack medicines and food.

The dual confinement at times in punishment cells and the cruel inhuman and degrading treatments, among them constant beatings until they see them fall to the floor.

The Cuban League Against AIDS declares in most of these prisoners with HIV / AIDS acquired the disease by way of self-inoculation, true suicide to which the prison and health authorities of the island become accomplices.

Your Holiness Benedict XVI whether or not you decide to visit Cuba, please remember that what I am describing to you is a nation damaged by 53 hard years of dictatorship. A nation that needs to be heard in a space that guarantees security for every citizen, so I ask that I ask you to reconsider the trip. But if even after our letters you decide to come, please consider visiting us on behalf of our organization, we request that you keep us in mind when you have an exchange with Cuban civil society.

The Cuban League Against AIDS, your Holiness, asks for a hearing during your visit.

We ask God and the patron of Cubans to keep you safe on your trip and may you be welcomed in the warmth of real people waiting to be confirmed in the Christian faith, and that you do not see in a single head of state.

Yours respectfully.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero
Executive Director of the Cuban League against AIDS.
Calle 53 No 5206 Between 52 and 56 Rpto: La Ceiba, Playa.
CUBA Havana.
Phone: (53) 5317 3339

With a copy to the Vatican embassy in Havana, Cuba and to the International press.

January 26 2012