Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Request for participants at World Youth Day in Panama: Please say a prayer for political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."- Hebrews 13:3

Catholic youth of the world are gathering together in Panama City, Panama to spend January 22nd through January 27th at a World Youth Day which is a celebration of and putting trust in youth; giving youth a chance to make  a pilgrimage; and to give young people a chance to encounter the worldwide Catholic community. This year’s theme is taken from Mary’s affirmation of God’s will in Luke 1:38: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

This is the first World Youth Day in Central America. It is taking place at a time where dictators are taking power through bloodshed and repression, and youth are being killed, tortured, and imprisoned nearby in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba. Next door in Colombia, terrorists detonated a car bomb killing 20 cadets between the ages of 18 and 23at the Santander National Police Academy in Bogotá and called it a "legitimate act of war."

More than a dozen human rights and pro-democracy organizations from Latin America, Europe and the United States made a request during Christmas for bishops, priests, pastors, rabbis, and men and women of good will to engage in all possible efforts with the authorities to obtain an amnesty for all political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Partial lists provided by internal human rights groups indicate that there are at least 120 political prisoners in Cuba, 576 political prisoners in Nicaragua, and 288 political prisoners in Venezuela. At a minimum 984 fellow human beings arbitrarily detained and subjected to cruel and unusual punishments for being prisoners of conscience.

Many of them are young people, students, peacefully demonstrating against governments becoming increasingly authoritarian and violent. Below are three cases, but there are many more.


Maykel Castillo Pérez: Prisoner of conscience on hunger strike.
In September of 2018 Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, "El Osokbo" protested against Decree 349/2018 during a show. This is a new law that further outlaws independent art in Cuba. Three days after the concert, he was detained by the Cuban secret police. On November 15th Maykel sewed his mouth shut and began a hunger strike demanding to be freed. An official told him that they would meet his demand, and he ended the strike. But as the days turned into weeks, and the imprisonment continued, the Cuban artist on December 4th re-started the hunger strike

This is not the first time that he has been the victim of a politically motivated prosecution. On January 28, 2015, Maykel Castillo Pérez was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana. He was targeted for having used music to express his dissenting political opinions. He was charged with ‘peligrosidad predelictiva’ (‘pre-crime dangerousness’), which is used to imprison dissidents for what they potentially do in the future due to their associations and/or views.. His defense attorney told a reporter from Diario de Cuba that prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence him to five years. He once described his musical style as that of someone who “doesn’t make concessions with a system full of liars.”
Maykel remains jailed in Cuba as of January 22, 2019.


Opposition deputy Juan Requesens in custody without a hearing (PanAm Post)
Former student opposition leader and opposition deputy of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Requesens, has been a steadfast, moderate, non-violent opposition leader to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  The Maduro regime has manufactured charges that the opposition leader planned the assassination of Nicolas Maduro and is seeking to sentence him to 30 years in prison. He is 29 years old, married and father to two young children. He has been arbitrarily detained for 197 days. He has been the target in the past of brutal beatings. 

On August 7, 2018, “fourteen men of the SEBIN (Maduro's intelligence agency) forcefully kidnapped lawmaker Juan Requesens and his sister Rafaela Requesens, the president of the Federation of University Centers, ” reported the Justice First party, to which Requesens belongs. His sister was released a short time later.


Political prisoner in Nicaragua Amaya Copens, age 23
Amaya Coppens, a fifth year medical student at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de León in Nicaragua was arrested and accused of "terrorism." She was detained on  September 10, 2018, along with Sergio Alberto Midence Delgadillo, by hooded police that used violence to detain them, and take them away in a van. Her "crime" is being outspoken against the violence visited on peaceful protesters and belonging to the University Coalition for Democracy along with the Justice (CUDJ) and the Civic Alliance and Social Movements Network. She is the eighth member of the CUDJ to be arbitrarily detained in what is a campaign of harassment and repression against a dozen university organizations working together at the national level for a free Nicaragua.

She faces a political show trial with a Sandinista judge in February of 2019. She was just 23 years old at the time of her arrest and has been held in prison since then. 

Please share this post with others. Please call on those presiding over mass in Panama and elsewhere to pray for these political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and for the Church to intercede on their behalf and request an amnesty for all political prisoners and an end to the violence.


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