The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced on Wednesday the arrest of 142 of its members during Pope Francis’s visit to the island, which concluded yesterday. The total number of detainees from different organizations is between 250 and 300 activists, the report said.
The majority of the arrests (105 arbitrarily arrested and several beaten) was recorded in Santiago de Cuba on the last day of the stay of the pontiff. Five other members of the organization were arrested in Pinar del Río, 13 were arrested in Havana, 14 Holguin and one in Guantanamo.
UNPACU says in a statement released through its website that more than two hundred activists in the East and another twenty in the West were prevented from leaving their homes under threat of arrest.
Pope Francis said yesterday aboard the papal plane flying from the island to the US that he had not been aware that there had been arrests of dissidents who sought a meeting with him during his stay on the island. However, UNPACU asserts that the Pope spoke last Sunday in Havana with one of the members of the organization, Zacchaeus Baez Guerrero, who identified himself to the Pope to deliver a letter and express to him the lack of human rights in Cuba. A Univision video records the moment when State Security struggles with the activist at the sight of the pope and stops.
The leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, and other activists such as Berta Soler of the Ladies in White and Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), reproached the Pope for failing to address in his homilies and speeches the situation of fundamental rights in the country.