We have been treated like dogs, says wife of pastor detained after Cuba protests

(Photo: Unsplash/Yuting Gao)

The wife of a pastor detained after massive protests across Cuba has hit out at the "inhumane" treatment of her husband.

Yarian Sierra is being held in a wing of the Matanzas women's prison along with another pastor, Yéremi Blanco Ramírez.

The two men are tutors at the William Carey Biblical Seminary in Matanzas and are both associated with the Berean Baptist denomination.

They were detained on 11 July and since then, their wives have only been able to visit once to bring them basic hygiene items.

They have had no further update about their welfare and there are particular concerns for Pastor Blanco Ramírez, who suffers from asthma, amid rising Covid cases in Matanzas.

Claudia Salazar, the wife of Yarian Sierra, who is being supported by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) during her ordeal, said, "I want to denounce that they treated us as if we were dogs who have no right to anything."

She added, "In Cuba they do punish citizens for thinking differently and even more so for expressing their opinions – this is exemplified by my husband Yarian Sierra and Yeremi Blanco.

"They are being treated today as political prisoners for expressing their opinion.

"For how long will we have to suffer these abuses?

"For how long do we have to endure these attacks and so much oppression?"

At least two other religious leaders were detained on 11 July including Father Castor José Álvarez Devesa, a Catholic priest who was beaten and detained in the Montecarlo Prison in Camagüey before being released a day later.

Reverend Yusniel Pérez Montejo, a member of the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba, was detained in the province of Santiago. His whereabouts are still unknown.

CSW is calling for the release of the pastors and for the Cuban government to listen to the demands of the protesters. 

CSW's Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: "We welcome news of the release of Father Castor, though we note that he never should have been detained as none of these men have committed any crime.

"We call on the Cuban authorities to hold those responsible for the assault on Father Castor to account, and to release all others who were detained in relation to the exercise of their fundamental rights immediately and without conditions.

"CSW condemns the Cuban government's explicit call to violence in the streets and urges President Díaz Canel and other leaders of the Cuba Communist Party to take seriously and respond humanely and responsibly to the calls of the demonstrators."