Cuban police have prevented political dissidents from attending public events, even after some dissidents were invited by Vatican diplomats.
Leaders of the protest group “Women in White” were arrested shortly before Pope Francis was scheduled to appear in Havana’s cathedral to leading evening prayers on Sunday, September 20. They had also been taken into custody briefly earlier, before a papal Mass. In each case they were released shortly after the event.
“The authorities told me I would not be permitted to attend any event related to Pope Francis,” Miriam Leiva told the Associated Press. About 50 people were held, the headquarters of Women in White was surrounded by police, and at least three individuals were forcibly removed from the site of the papal Mass.
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that the Pope’s party had sought to contact some members of the political opposition by telephone, but were unsuccessful. He did not explain that failure– which could have occurred because the individuals were in police custody when the Pope’s aides called.