Details have emerged about the arrest and imprisonment of a Cuban Christian rights activist who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison late last year after authorities raided his home and confiscated Bibles and crucifixes.
Misael Diaz Paseiro, a dissident who is a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front, was arrested in November and charged with "pre-criminal social dangerousness" by the Communist government, according to the watchdog NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Paseiro's arrest came after state security agents raided his home on Oct. 22 and confiscated two Bibles, several crucifixes and five rosaries. According to CSW, it was on Nov. 4 that Paseiro was beaten by "political police."
"Misael, in addition to being a counter-revolutionary, you are also a Christian," CSW quoted a police official as telling Paseiro. "You should look at us, we are revolutionaries and we don't believe in your God. Our god is Fidel Castro."
Paseiro was initially denied basic rights in prison, such as access to a Bible and visits from a priest. Paseiro's mistreatment led his wife, Ariana López Roque, to go on a 19-day hunger strike.
During López Roque's hunger strike, CSW reports that police officials prevented a pastor from going to their home to provide counsel. Pastor Bárbaro Guevara tried to visit López Roque twice but was physically blocked from doing so.
López Roque has since ended her hunger strike after receiving assurances that her husband's rights will be respected in prison, according to CSW.
As the government agents who beat Paseiro reportedly told him that the deceased revolutionary and brutal dictator Castor was their God, Cuban pastor and rights activist Mario Barroso told The Christian Post on Thursday that it is not uncommon for people in Cuba to invoke the name of Castro.
Barroso, a missionary who's been arrested many times by the Cuban government who came to the United States as a refugee with his family in 2016, told CP that invoking the name Castro as a deity is the "strategy of some people in Cuba to cover crimes and corruption."
"Invoking Fidel Castro in Cuba helps cover acts of corruption and even crimes. This proves that the followers of [Castro as a God] are not really so adept as Fidel himself but rather at the benefits that are covered by invoking him," Barroso explained. "Deep down they are imitating Fidel with this behavior since Fidel Castro was like that too: an opportunist, a blackmailer. So the believers in Fidel Castro act in the image and likeness of their god, Fidel. They are faithful followers of the evil example of their god."
"There may be 5 percent of those who claim to have Fidel Castro as god who really adore him," Barroso added. "The other 95 percent is just opportunists who imitate Fidel's bad example."
The news of Paseiro's detention comes as a new CSW report on Cuba released this month relays that there were as many as 325 religious freedom violations in the island nation in 2017.
Although the 325 figure is lower than the number of religious freedom violations that CSW reported in 2015 and 2016, it still continues an increasing trend in violations since 2011, the organization reports.
"CSW is deeply concerned by the growing number and severity of [religious freedom] violations reported by a wide variety of denominations and religious groups, which seem to show that the government is attempting to tighten its control over the activities and membership of religious groups," the CSW report reads. "Many of the documented violations were in line with the types of violations seen in previous years — for example the use of temporary arbitrary detention, harassment of church leaders, and attacks on property rights."
"It appears, however, that the government is now also diversifying its tactics by threatening activists and religious leaders with trumped up criminal charges, arbitrarily preventing them from traveling out of the country and targeting their children," the report continued. "It is essential that the European Union, the United States, and other governments in dialogue with Cuba use their positions to press for improvements to religious freedom and the general human rights situation in the country."