Cuban dissident leader’s memory honored during special Mass

.- The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, presided at a special Mass last week in memory of Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, the recently deceased Cuban dissident leader and cofounder of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.

The Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Havana district of El Vedado, in the presence of the widow of the late Cuban leader, Teresa Rodriguez, and current dissident leaders on the island, including Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Paya, who received the 2002 Sajarov Award, called Arcos “a man in whom I never saw fear.” “His entire life was committed to the freedom of his people.  All of his humiliations and sacrifice were not in vain, and I am sure that Cuba will be free and reconciled just as he wished,” Paya added.

Laura Pollan, member of the Women in White, said Arcos Bergnes “was the first stone in what has become the building of new society for Cuba.”

Gustavo Arcos Bergnes was born in 1926 in Caibarien, Cuba.  After the Batista military coup of 1952, he joined the Orthodox Party and participated in the resistance with Fidel Castro.

He was freed during a general amnesty in 1955 and went into exile in Mexico.  He returned to Cuba in 1959 after the military triumph of Castro.  He was named ambassador to Belgium, Denmark and Luxemburg, but he resigned in 1964 in disagreement with the Marxist direction being taken by the government.

He was imprisoned for “acts against State security” and freed in 1969 after a hunger strike.  He was prohibited from traveling outside Cuba and was imprisoned again in 1981 after he attempted to leave the island nation.

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