BosNewsLife Americas Service
HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– Cuba’s communist government briefly detained the wife of a Baptist pastor to pressure the couple to end their involvement in defending persecuted Christians, activists told BosNewsLife Saturday, October 25.
The troubles began October 15 when Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso was reportedly threatened with criminal charges. “The following day his wife, Yoaxis Suarez, was arrested,” said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), which closely followed the situation.
“Authorities attempted to force her to sign paperwork accusing her of criminal activities, [but] she refused,” the group said.
The “Acta de Advertencia” she was reportedly asked to sign is a document that can be used as justification for future arrests and criminal charges, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
She was allegedly also told to stop having contact with “counter-revolutionary” elements or risk imprisonment. Another pastor, Yordanis Santi Perez, was detained and interrogated at the same time, but more details were not immediately available, Christians said.
Prior to the threat of criminal charges on Barroso and Suarez’s arrest, Barroso had visited “numerous church leaders” who reported violations of religious freedom, activists told BosNewsLife.
The couple’s involvement in defending religious freedom or belief made them a target for the Cuban government, which apparently equates that as “counter-revolutionary” activity, explained investigators.
The Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) group condemned what it called Cuba’s “ongoing violations of the religious freedom of its citizens and its harassment of those who are involved in documenting these violations.”
CSW said from January to June 2014 they registered more than 130 “serious violations” of religious freedom in Cuba.
ICC’s Regional Manager Corey Bailey said activists demand that the Cuban leadership “cease its harassment of Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and his wife Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez.”
Bailey accused that authorities of involvement in “scare tactics, threats and wrongful arrests.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We urge members of the international community to make representations to the Cuban government in support of Reverend Lleonart Barroso and his family, as well as other church leaders who are being targeted by the authorities.”
Cuban leader Raul Castro claims to have eased some restrictions on personal freedoms by lifting bans on mobile phones and home computers and promised to consider allowing Cuban citizens to travel abroad
However while saying he was ready to “enter into dialogue” with the United States, he insisted that Cuba’s atheistic communist system remained “non-negotiable” on this island of some 11 million people.
Devoted Christians gathering outside officially recognized churches, or denominations going beyond religious traditions, are among the groups being targeted by authorities, BosNewsLife monitored.