HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– A blind Cuban Christian dissident, who is under house arrest for opposing the Communist government of Fidel Castro, has condemned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for proposing an end to the embargo against Cuba as well as a relaxation of travel and other restrictions, BosNewsLife monitored Monday, August 30.
Dissident Juan Carlos Gonzales Leiva, a 39-year old lawyer and president of the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights, said changing the U.S. policy toward Cuba will “not help to bring about solutions or improvements” for Cubans.
“American business has not brought about any freedom in China. We cannot confuse freedom with the fish of the Israelite’s during their slavery in Egypt,” he wrote to Bishop John H. Ricard, Chair of the USCCB Internacional Policy Committee, in a letter, obtained by BosNewsLife.
Last month, Bishop Ricard urged the U.S. Congress to reconsider recent restrictions on travel from America to Cuba which he said “will serve only to exacerbate the situation” on the island.
“We believe the goals of improving the lot of the Cuban people and encouraging the democratization of the governance of Cuba are best accomplished through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American peoples,” he added. Several large Cuban denominations have also criticized the embargo, although some of them are believed to be close to the government.
However Gonzales Leiva said “freedom and democracy for Cuba will not come to us from American citizens or by means of people to people contacts.” He told the bishop that freedom can only come be achieved within the island. “Our own strengths and our own weaknesses must take each other on, and in the end, the former will prevail.”
Gonzales Leiva stressed he wrote his letter with wishes of “blessings of peace, love, and hope in the glorious name of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” altough he disagreed with the bishop’s approach to human rights violations.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaking to the media. His government objects to using the word “dissidents” to describe those detained for criticizing Castro”s policies.
“I appreciate your (efforts) in the name of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, although in my opinion, they are completely mistaken.”
He said 114 human rights activists have “not only expressed” their “total backing and support of the U.S. embargo against the Cuban government but also requested the stiffening and the hardening of the policy of the European Union and other countries of the international community toward Cuba.”
Gonzales Leiva was given a four-year jail sentence on charges of “disrespect”, “public disorder”, resistance”, and “disobedience”, dissident sources say. This year he was allowed to serve the rest of his term under house arrest in his home in the central city of Ciego de Avila, after more than two years in a Communist prison.
He told reporters in April that the move was not leniency, but because “it doesn’t look good to have a blind person behind bars”. The activist claimed the time he spent in detention had been “psychological torture”, and human rights watchers say he had been beaten.
Gonzalez Leiva was one of 10 members of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights detained in 2002 while holding a peaceful protest at a city hospital in solidarity with an independent journalist who they said “had been brutally beaten by State Security agents.”
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