WASHINGTON (April 8, 2003) -- Recently arrested Cuban dissidents - human rights activists, journalists, poets and labor leaders, "which only authoritarian regimes have reason to fear" - should be released, according to the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' International Policy Committee.
"We hope that the Cuban authorities will recognize the error of these mistaken acts and release these non-violent dissident prisoners," said Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
According to Bishop Ricard, "scores of Cuban dissidents" have been arrested recently, accused of acts "against the independence or territorial integrity of the State," of having ties with the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, of receiving funds from the U.S. government or exile groups in the United States.
"While we are not in a position to judge individual cases, those arrested seem to fit the general category of human rights and democracy advocates, which only authoritarian regimes have reason to fear," Bishop Ricard said.
He also renewed the bishops' long-standing call for the U.S. embargo against Cuba to be lifted.
"When U.S. citizens can trade with and travel to Cuba, freed of the present restrictions, the open exchange of ideas and inter-personal contact between our two peoples will help create a climate that promotes the kind of debate and advocacy for which today's dissidents are being punished," said Bishop Ricard.