Seminarian Jailed Amid Cuba Protests

Rafael Cruz Dévora, 26, was arrested at his parents’ home in Matanzas on July 12.

Protesters took to the streets in recent days to air their concerns.
Protesters took to the streets in recent days to air their concerns. (photo: Steward Cutler via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). / Steward Cutler via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Rafael Cruz Dévora, a seminarian, was arrested on Monday after participating in protests of Cuba’s communist government.

Protests took place across Cuba July 11-12. Protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some protesters were beaten, and at least 100 were arrested. 

Cruz, 26, was arrested at his parents’ home in Matanzas on July 12.

Father Rolando Montes de Oca, a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that Cruz “remains under arrest” in Unión de Reyes, a town in Matanzas province. The priest said the authorities “have let the family bring him some clothes, but they won’t let them see him.”

Cruz is studying theology in Havana and “was on vacation at his parents' home” in Matanzas when the protests broke out.

The seminarian was briefly in the demonstration “calling on people to understand each other and asking the authorities not to repress them with beatings, to respect the right to demonstrate. That was the only thing he did, and for that he’s in prison,” Father Montes de Oca said.

Another among those arrested in the protests was Father Castor Álvarez, a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey.

In response to the protests, the Cuban government announced July 14 it will temporarily allow those entering the country to bring food, hygienic supplies and medicine without paying import taxes. 

Father Alberto Reyes Pías, a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey, wrote on Facebook July 13 that the protests show the Cuban people are “worn out and fed up” with the communist government.

“Human beings are made for freedom, to the point that even their Creator doesn’t violate it. Human beings can be repressed, intimidated, threatened ... and this can make, by a pure survival instinct, the person submit to slavery and even defend the one who is oppressing him, but freedom is inscribed in our genes. Years, even generations, may pass, but there comes a time when the soul rebels and says: ‘enough,’” he wrote.

“For a long time,” the priest wrote, “the Cuban people have been showing signs of being worn out and fed up,” and “they have been giving notice that the time of slavery is over.”

In his post, Father Reyes asked: “How is it possible that we have waited for so long?” and replied: “because they didn’t subdue us from one day to the next. They deceived us, manipulated us, blinded us, and when the first people began to wake up, they massacred them, shot them with impunity. And fear put its omnipresent face in our hearts and in our homes.”

The priest regretted that the people had lived this way “for years, hiding, pretending, and fleeing at the first opportunity, leaving many times those who dared to raise the voice of freedom all alone at the mercy of evil despite that they did it in the name of all.”

On July 13 four Cuban-American bishops indicated their support for the Cuba protests.

“We, Cuban-American bishops, join in solidarity with the Cuban people in their quest for responses to their human rights and needs. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive reaction of the government to the peaceful manifestations, recognizing that ‘violence engenders violence,’” they wrote.

“Such a reaction seems to negate the basic Cuban principle of having una patria con todos y para el bien de todos (a homeland with all and for the good of all).  We stand in solidarity with those detained because they have voiced their opinions.”

The Cuban-American bishops said the protesters’ “chant of ‘Libertad’ underscores their desire for every Cuban citizen to enjoy basic human rights, as recognized as part of our human dignity by the United Nations, and defended for centuries by the Catholic Church in its social teaching.”

“As Cubans and as bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, we are ever-mindful of the constant suffering and frustration of our brothers and sisters on the island. We recognize that, while hundreds of thousands have experienced the need to emigrate, in order to enjoy basic human rights and a future filled with possibilities, those who have not, by choice or inability to do so, as Cubans in Cuba, are to be the actors of their own future and aspirations. The right and courage of the people in Cuba to raise their voice publicly, casting away their fear of repression and revealing authentic solidarity as a people, are acknowledged and applauded.”

The bishops called on “governments and all charitable organizations to collaborate in assisting in this urgent humanitarian crisis for the sake of the suffering people of Cuba, especially the sick and the poor. We commend the care of Caritas Cubana, as it continues to mediate, with ever so limited resources, a response to the basic human needs of the people of the island.”

“As always, together with our brother bishops in Cuba, and our brothers and sisters inside and outside the island, we continue to place our trust in the motherly gaze of the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity,” they concluded.

Communist rule in Cuba was established soon after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which ousted the authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista.