Secret Talks Rumored Between Castro and Catholic Archbishop on Release of Political Prisoners

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The voice on the other end of the line dictates a text that will be published in the blog Voices Behind the Bars. It is Pedro Arguelles from the Canaleta prison and we talk about the current conversations between the Church and the Cuban government. A difficult issue to talk about with a prisoner for whom over optimistic phrases would feed an expectation that could lead to frustration. I have little information, I confess, the official media only shows brief images of the meeting between Cardinal Jaime Ortego and General Raul Castro, without revealing the agenda points they discussed. But, I venture to tell him, in the streets rumor has it that the meetings are about the negotiations for the release of the political prisoners, which has been confirmed by the church authorities in a press conference where independent journalists and bloggers were not invited.

On the one hand the issue excites me and on the other it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is like being in the presence of a table that tries to stand on two legs, while the third - excluded or ignored - would bear most of the weight of the decisions. There is limited discussion with that very important part of the nation not called to meet: civil society groups and associations. Something that is the responsibility of military and citizens, Catholics and atheists, party supporters and dissidents, should not be discussed only among those in uniform or cardinal's robes. Conspicuous by their absence in these meetings are the spokespeople of the injured people of Cuba, who have sons, husbands and fathers condemned for political reasons. How can you intercede for the injured without giving them, also, a chance to express themselves, without allowing them to be represented there, where their fate is being spoken of.

Pedro, Pablo and Adolfo call me again. I don't know what to say about the meetings taking place behind closed doors, about deals shrouded in mystery. I desire so much that their names will be on the list of those possibly favored with parole that I let myself be carried away by hope. But make no mistake. While free opinion and the exercises of it continue to be criminalized in our penal code, there will be a list of inmates to be freed from their cells. The efforts of the Catholic church as mediator are welcome, although the Cuban authorities should listen to all its citizens, even those who oppose it. Going through life disqualifying for dialog anyone with critical positions has left us, today, with a table with only two supporting legs. Several legs could give it equilibrium and diversity, they only need to recognize it and let them exist.