As was expected, Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s flat denial of the fact that there are still political prisoners in Cuba has leaked from the interview granted to Spain’s Ser Chainprogram Hour 25. It borders on the enigmatic how someone in the position of this man is open to asserting something that no one believes at all and that has done nothing for either the church that he represents or he himself. It is obvious that such a nonsensical statement shatters all of the church’s social doctrine that he is called upon to support and practice.
But supposing that the prelate is so badly informed that he is ignorant of the existing lists, like that of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), that include dozens of prisoners, whether supporters of violence or not, but without doubt all incarcerated for political reasons, one will have to add that the cardinal suffers also from a memory deficit. Because the archbishop must at least remember that on the eve of the visit by Benedict XVI on February 28, 2012, he had to visit the political prisoner Ernesto Borges Perez at Combinado del Este Prison to ask him to give up his hunger strike because he was putting the Pope’s visit at risk.
Ernesto was amenable to the proposal of his pastor, who raised great expectations of his liberation with the then-imminent visit. That hope was frustrated, as before in 2010, when 126 prisoners were released, or later, in December of 2014, when another 53 were freed after the announcement of the re-establishment of US-Cuba relations. Many of us came to think that it had been he for whom the liberation of the Wasp Network spies had been negotiated, until we learned that in reality it had been Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, sentenced for a reason similar to his.
Borges Perez has completed 17 of the 30 years of incarceration to which he was sentenced after his death penalty was commuted. He was sentenced for his effort to reveal the names of 26 spies that Cuban State Security had ready to send to the United States. He was then the main analyst and leader of the General Directorate of Counter-Intelligence and apparently acted under the influence of the Glasnost and Perestroika winds that were blowing in the USSR.
Converted to Catholicism in prison, where he survives as a fervent believer who clings to his faith as his only lifeline of salvation, he must have felt an enormous frustration after that visit by his pastor who left satisfied on achieving his objective and has never returned to see him. I doubt that the two letters of pastoral support addressed to him by Benedict XVI through the papal nuncio mitigate his disappointment on learning that his pastor did not even take account of him in his interview with Hour 25.
I pray to God that history does not repeat itself and that Ernesto does not again declare a hunger strike with the approach of the new papal visit in September.
Translated by MLK