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    Cuba Urged To Let Church Leader, Family Leave Island

    Cuba Urged To Let Church Leader, Family Leave Island
    Monday, November 7, 2011 (6:02 pm)
    By BosNewsLife Americas Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

    HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– The leader of a major Cuban network of
    independent churches and his family have urged Cuba's government to let
    them leave the Communist-run island following years of harassment,
    including imprisonment, Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife
    Monday, November 7.

    Pastor Omar Gude Perez of the growing 'Apostolic Movement', his wife and
    two children were granted asylum in the United States in July but were
    refused permission to exit Cuba, said advocacy group Christian
    Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

    "We are deeply concerned at the news that Cuban officials have once
    again declined to issue the Gude family an exit visa," added CSW's
    Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor in a statement to BosNewsLife.

    Pastor Gude, served almost three years of a six and a half year prison
    sentence on what his supported called "trumped up charges". He was
    released on "conditional liberty" earlier this year but is reportedly
    prohibited from preaching or from traveling outside his home city of
    Camaguey.

    "After receiving asylum in the US in July, the couple was informed by
    government officials that they would not be issued exit visas, or "white
    cards", as they are called in Cuba," CSW said.

    "NEGATIVE PRESS COVERAGE"

    Following "negative press coverage" officials told the family they would
    in fact "be allowed to leave, but three months on they say they have yet
    to see any indication that they will be permitted to go into exile," CSW
    explained.

    The family reportedly said they are concerned about "the long delays and
    contradictory messages."

    Another couple, both pastors from the same network in Camaguey as the
    Gude family, have also been harassed by government officials and
    threatened with imprisonment and forcible closure of their
    church,according to Christian rights activists.

    "On the most recent occasion, Benito Rodríguez and Bárbara Guzmán were
    ordered to appear at the local Ministry of Justice on 11 October and
    fined 200 Cuban pesos, approximately a one month's salary in Cuba,' CSW
    added in a statement.

    These are no isolated incidents. Last month a Baptist pastor in the
    province of Santa Clara, Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, was reportedly
    put under house arrest on multiple occasions.

    GOVERNMENT "WARNS" FAMILY

    "Officials warned the family that they could be a target of an "act of
    repudiation", government orchestrated mobs often mobilized by officials
    to intimidate and attack human rights and democracy activists," CSW
    explained. "News of increased pressure and threats against other church
    leaders is also extremely worrying," said Windsor. "

    He stressed his group has urged Cuba "to uphold its commitments as a
    signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    and to cease harassment of religious leaders."

    "We hope that the government will also honor its promise to the Gude
    family to allow them to leave the country and begin a new life in the
    United States without any further delay."

    Cuban officials did not comment on the latest cases. However the Cuban
    government has repeatedly denied holding any political or Christian
    dissidents saying those held are mercenaries paid by the United States.

    OPPOSITION MOVEMENT DIFFICULTIES

    The reported crackdown on Christians come also at a difficult time for
    Cuba's small opposition movement.

    Leading dissident Guillermo Fariñas was released last week from a jail
    in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara after spending two days in
    custody. He was detained Tuesday, November 1, when trying to enter
    Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital to visit fellow dissident
    Alcides Rivera, who has been on hunger strike for over a month.

    Last year, he went on a four-and-a-half-month fast to demand the release
    of political prisoners following the death of Orlando Zapata, who died
    February 23, 2010, after a lengthy hunger strike behind bars to protest
    jail conditions.

    The international outcry over Zapata's death prompted the Cuban
    government to launch a Spain-backed dialogue last year with the Cuban
    Catholic hierarchy that led to the release of over 100 political
    prisoners. Those released included dozens of dissidents jailed in March
    2003 amid what observers called "the harshest crackdown" in decades.

    Since last month they continue without Laura Pollan, the founder of the
    Ladies in White, who every Sunday walk out and march in silence along
    Havana's busy Fifth Avenue, dressed in white and carrying red gladiolas.
    She died at te age of 63 on October 14 following her peaceful battle for
    human rights that included the release of her activist husband Cuban
    dissident Hector Maseda, after eight years in prison.

    http://www.bosnewslife.com/18935-cuba-urged-to-let-church-leader-family-leave-island

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