More than 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding the release of a Protestant pastor who's been imprisoned by Cuba's communist regime without trial for participating in peaceful protests that emerged across the country in July.
The U.K.-based Christian group Christian Solidarity Worldwide submitted the petition with 2,070 signatures to Cuban Ambassador Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez at the country's embassy in London on Thursday. The petition calls for the release of Pastor Rosales Fajardo, who has been detained without trial for over two months following the protests on July 11, which were said to be the largest in decades amid ongoing shortages of medicine and food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Security officers arrested Fajardo in Palma Soriano. Later, they transferred him to the Boniato Maximum Security Prison outside the city of Santiago de Cuba in August.
Hours after the protests erupted, President Díaz-Canel addressed the nation on national television, urging government supporters to confront the protesters on the streets. He also accused the U.S. of causing the crisis in Cuba by imposing sanctions.
Fajardo, a pastor for 20 years who leads the Monte de Sion church, faces charges including “disrespect” and “public disorder,” punishable with an imprisonment between three and 20 years and has been held incommunicado for most of his detention.
“CSW continues to stand with the family of Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo as they wait for this husband and father to be returned home,” CSW’s head of advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said, saying her group hopes the petition will send “an important message to the Cuban authorities that the world is watching them and that their treatment of Pastor Rosales Fajardo is wholly unacceptable.”
Prison authorities haven’t allowed even his wife, Maridilegnis Carballo, to visit him. He can speak to his family only on a few three-minute phone calls, according to the CSW.
Authorities have warned Carballo that their 17-year-old son, who was arrested with his father but later released, will face repercussions if she continues to speak out about her husband’s plight. “She has also been threatened with imprisonment herself for speaking to international human rights organizations about her husband’s unjust detention,” the group added.
Fajardo has a history of enduring persecution from the communist regime. In 2012, for example, the government confiscated the pastor’s church property.
The pastor “has now spent over two months in prison in horrible conditions simply for participating in peaceful protests,” CSW’s head of campaigns, Dave Mance, said in a previous statement.
According to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, about 59% of Cubans are Christian. Cuban Christians face constant government surveillance and infiltration even though the faith is growing in the island country.
The Cuban government amended its Constitution in 1992, declaring it a secular state, instead of an atheist state, partially allowing religious activities. Since then, the percentage of the country's population that identifies as Christian has grown.
However, the communist regime of Cuba continues to persecute Christians. A new constitution was adopted in 2019, which also lists the country as a secular state.
Cuba has been a one-party state under the Communist Party of Cuba since the late dictator Fidel Castro overthrew the United States-supported dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. In 2008, Castro’s brother, Raul Castro, was elected president, followed by Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2019.