When President Obama "normalized" relations with communist Cuba nearly one year ago, it was expected among Americans that normalization would bring some kind of reform to the Castro brother's regime of punishing dissents. Sadly, nothing has changed.
Over the weekend Cuban dissidents were arrested and thrown in jail during the Pope's visit to the island.
Four dissidents opposed to Cuba’s communist regime were arrested when they tried approaching Pope Francis in Havana on Sunday, an activist group reported.
The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba identified the dissidents as Patriotic Union of Cuba members Zaqueo Baéz, Boris Reni, Aymara Nieto Muñoz and Maria Josefa Acon Sardiña, who is also a member of the Ladies in White, a peaceful protest group founded by female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.
Photos showed some of them being dragged away by security personnel at Havana's Revolution Square, where they reportedly tried to approach the pope as his white popemobile carried him to the Mass he was giving.
They were yelling "freedom!" and anti-government slogans, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer. Opposition groups have widely criticized the pope's decision not to meet with them during his Cuba trip.
It is a huge disappointment the Pope, who prides himself on standing up for the oppressed, failed to meet with Cuban dissidents during his trip. More on that from AP:
Pope Francis flies to eastern Cuba on Monday for the next leg of his pilgrimage after having met with both Raul and Fidel Castro but missing out on an encounter with Cuban dissidents.
The Vatican stressed that no official meeting had been planned with the dissidents. The Vatican embassy in Havana did make calls to some leaders "as a sign of attention to these people," the Vatican spokesman said, but in the end the dissidents were prevented from reaching the cathedral where the greeting was planned.
Meanwhile, Cuba is still harboring convicted criminals, including cop-killer Assata Shakur, on the run from U.S. law enforcement.