.- A leading Cuban archbishop intervened to prevent 14 members of the Women in White protest group from being assaulted by Cuban police agents.
Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez told CNA on Feb. 21 that the police had been waiting for the women, who were on their way to the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in El Cobre.
“The women have been going to the Basilica of El Cobre to pray like any other believer who goes to church to pray, but they told me that have been receiving threats, that there have been reprisals against them and that they were being harassed,” said Archbishop Garcia, who serves as president of the Cuban bishops' conference.
Cuban dissident Prudencio Villalon, who accompanied the women to the Basilica, said they declared a hunger strike on the steps of the church on Sunday after Mass, in response to the threats they received from a large contingent of state police in the area surrounding the church.
Tipped off about the incident by a priest from the basilica, Archbishop Dionisio Garcia arrived with two vehicles to evacuate the women to safety.
“Authorities should be aware of the matter,” archbishop Garica said. “Although the protest is essential political in nature, the Church supported them.”
According to local newspaper El Nuevo Herald, the incidents occurred during a weekend in which police detained some 30 members and sympathizers of the Women in White in Santiago, Chile.