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CUBA
Growing Government Intolerance and Persecution
towards Catholics in Cuba

Havana (Fides) 29 Nov. 2000 - Government intolerance and repression towards Catholics grows. The latest move is a law which suspends diplomas or degrees of professionals who enter a seminary or Religious Order. In recent years a number of medical doctors have entered a seminary or joined a Jesuit or Franciscan community. Under this new law, as priests or religious these physicians will be barred from practicing their profession.

The success the Church is having with young Cubans generates episodes of intolerance. On November 21, 2000, in a school in the Havana suburb of Aguada de Pasajeros, when a holy picture of the island’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity, dropped out of a book belonging to one of the grade five pupils, the enraged teacher, Olga Lidia, tore it to pieces and warned the class not to bring religious pictures to school. When the pupil’s parents complained to the headmaster, the reply was “in Cuba education is the duty of the state and not the right of the parents”.

In the meantime human rights organizations denounce violations on the part of the government. Around mid-November of last year a document, circulated by the Study Commission for Freedom in Cuba, was signed by several political prisoners detained in Havana prisons, including Catholic dissident Maritza Lugo Fernandez. “I support this document 100 percent, as a dissident, a Catholic and a woman”, said Ms. Fernandez, who has been arrested arbitrarily more than a dozen times.

Cuba’s most well-known political prisoner is Catholic doctor Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzales, detained since November 3, 1999. He is president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, and has been put in prison 26 times in 16 months. He is now serving two years at Cuba Si prison in east Havana for “dishonoring national symbols”, “disturbing public order” and “instigating to criminal action”. Biscet Gonzales took part in an anti-abortion demonstration outside a hospital in Havana in February 1999.

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