WASHINGTON, District of Columbia — Report states that one of Cuba’s best-known political dissidents on Thursday called on the pope to use his power and visibility to shine a light on human rights abuses and political oppression under Fidel Castro’s regime.
Oscar Elias Biscet, 50, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that he will ask the pope to be an advocate for the oppressed, if he has an opportunity to meet with him. He spoke through a translator, in testimony telephoned from Cuba.
In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Biscet the Medal of Freedom while he was still imprisoned for his opposition to the Castro regime. In the mid-1990s, Biscet accused the Cuban government of allowing and covering up botched abortions, and he was imprisoned from 1999 to late 2002. He had been free for 37 days when he was arrested again.
Biscet was one of 125 political prisoners ordered released last March by the government of President Raul Castro. Some congressional leaders, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have nominated him for a Nobel Prize. He acknowledged that his testimony Thursday came at considerable personal risk and could lead to his re-arrest.
The committee did not announce Biscet’s name before the hearing, out of concern that Cuban authorities would detain him before he was able to testify from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Reps. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and Albio Sires, D-N.J., said they would write to the pope asking him to meet with Biscet.
Meanwhile, Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., said the message to the church couldn’t be more clear.
“Now it is up to the Catholic Church to respond to Dr. Biscet,” Rivera said. “It is up to the pope himself to respond to Dr. Biscet. I would hope they would be responsive to Dr. Biscet’s hope and aspirations and his request of the pope and the Catholic Church.”
Biscet told the committee that the police in Cuba beat him, disfigured his face and broke his foot in an effort to “stop through torture, stop me from defending human rights.” He also described conditions in the prison where he was held. Some prisoners were undressed collectively, disregarding “any respect for human dignity,” he said.
Cuban journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, a recently freed political prisoner who lives in Miami, told the committee that women are treated with particular brutality by police. Sires said Biscet’s testimony was untainted by the politics of the Miami exile community.
“He’s not a product of Miami Beach, he’s not a product of Miami, he’s not a product of Cubans in exile,” he said. “This is a man that was educated in Cuba, and he sees that this is a dictator, that this is a country that oppresses human rights, that this is a country that allows no one the freedom to express themselves. And he’s personally seen what they do to people who are seeking freedom of expression.”
On Thursday, Biscet vowed to continue what he described as a nonviolent movement to change Cuba. He said Cubans expect little to improve while the Castro brothers remain alive, but that they cannot wait for their deaths to agitate for change.
Mfrances is a staff writer for CatholicFavors.com that deals high quality Catholic related jewelry including affordable gold rosary bracelets, silver rosary bracelets, and Catholic gifts of the Holy Spirit.