Christians in Cuba worry about student's alleged persecution
Christians in Cuba worry about student’s alleged persecution
After trip to the U.S., Cuban pro-democracy student gets expelled
By Andrea Torres – Digital Reporter/Producer , Hatzel Vela – Reporter
Posted: 2:01 PM, May 10, 2017
Updated: 2:11 PM, May 10, 2017
HAVANA – A 20-year-old history student dared to publicly criticize the
Cuban government. He also defied them when he met with U.S. officials to
try to influence President Donald Trump’s policy.
During a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom in Washington, Félix Llerena wore a suit
and tie. The ten members of the U.S. federal government commission make
policy recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of State and Trump.
Llerena documented his trip on social media. He drank coffee under the
U.S. flag and visited the Radio y Televisión Martí studio in Miami. The
U.S. federal government has been financing the TV station’s programs in
Spanish since 1990.
“I am returning to continue the struggle for your true liberation,”
Llerena wrote on Facebook during his return flight to Cuba.
Cuban customs’ officials detained him for about four hours when he
arrived April 27 at the Aeropuerto Abel Santamaría in Santa Clara. He
reported they seized his tablet, flash drives, a pamphlet of the U.S.
Constitution, a cap with the Bay of Pigs Invasion Brigade 2506 logo and
cards. The alleged harassment didn’t stop there.
Cuban police officers later went to pick him up at his home in the
province of Villa Clara’s town of Encrucijada. He told friends that
state security agents called him a “terrorist,” accused him of having
ties to terrorists living in Miami and threatened him with not being
able to go back to the town.
“I am a young Christian, a Cuban, a patriot and a pacifist,”
Llerena later said in a statement. “I would never approve of an armed or
violent struggle, or of an armed foreign invasion that would hurt my
On Monday, Llerena learned that the Universidad
de Ciencias Pedagógicas Enrique José Varona’s administrators decided to
expulse him. They attributed their decision to absenteeism.
“They told me that if I wanted to return I had to wait for two years …
But of course everyone knows that my expulsion is due to purely
political reasons,” Llerena wrote on Facebook.
Llerena traveled to the U.S. as part of a Christian delegation that
included Baptist church leaders Mario
Felix Lleonart, Yoaxis Marcheco and Raudel Garcia Bringas, and Apostolic
Movement Pastor Yiorvis Bravo. They are part of the island’s Christian
The Cuban constitution recognizes freedom of religion. As a result,
clergy and academics estimate there are some 40,000 Methodists, 100,000
Baptists and 120,000 members of the Assemblies of God. About 60 percent
of Cubans are baptized Catholic, with many also following Afro-Cuban
syncretistic traditions such as Santeria.
Llerena also serves as the central region coordinator for the Patmos
Institute, a Christian organization that promotes religious liberty on
the island. He is also a promoter for CubaDecide, a campaign to request
an electoral vote to begin a transition to Democracy on the island.
Mervyn Thomas, the director of the London-based Christian Solidarity
Worldwide, released a statement asking the Cuban government “to cease
its harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its
ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency.”
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