By Patty Vila, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Cuba Expert, Sept. 15, 2015 – This past Friday the Cuban government announced the release of 3,522 prisoners from its jails before the Pope’s visit this Saturday. This type of gesture was made in 2011 during the last papal visit.
The Cuban government gave a pardon to a mix of women, inmates younger than 20 with no prior offenses, those older than 60, prisoners with illnesses, some foreigners whose countries have agreed to repatriate them and others whose terms are coming to an end. But they will not free those charged with serious crimes like murder or child sexual abuse or crimes against national security, which often means they are political prisoners.
In the last few weeks the Cuban government has continued to arrest dissidents in the days and weeks leading up to the Pope’s visit, but most are short-term detentions and activists are often freed the same day they are detained. I spoke to Maria Elena Alpizar member of the Ladies in White that lives in Miami and she said “The Ladies in White have requested to attend mass and have a meeting with Pope Francis.” They are still waiting for a response.
Pope Francis will deliver his papal mass at 9 a.m. on September 20 in the Plaza de la Revolucion. Presiding over the 11 acre square is a huge representation of Camilio Cienfuegos, a revolutionary hero and Che Guevara, a revolutionary icon. Pope Francis will also travel to Holguin and pray before the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, which is the patron saint of Cuba, he will also meet with Cuban families in the eastern city of Santiago.
Pope Francis will visit Cuba from September 19 to September 22.