USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. and Commissioners Kristina Arriaga and Jackie Wolcott meet with a delegation of Cuban religious leaders. From left to right: Félix Yuniel Llerena López, Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, Raudel García Bringas, and Rev. Yiorvis Bravo Denis. Commissioners Dorjee and Jolley participated in the meeting via telephone.
CUBA: USCIRF Condemns the Expulsion of Félix Yuniel Llerena López from the University of Cuba
USCIRF Calls on the University to Reinstate Félix as a Student and for the Castro Government to Cease Its Harassment of Him
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the latest harassment of Félix Yuniel Llerena López by the government of Cuba. He traveled to the United States last month – his first trip ever outside of Cuba -- to discuss the restrictive and repressive religious climate in Cuba. Félix was immediately detained and questioned on his return and forced to sign a pre-arrest warrant for public disorder. Now the University of Cuba – an arm of the Castro regime -- has expelled this promising young religious freedom leader.
Félix visited USCIRF as part of a delegation including Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, Raudel García Bringas, and Rev. Yiorvis Bravo Denis. They discussed Cuban religious freedom conditions with USCIRF’s Chair, Father Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Vice Chairman Daniel Mark and Commissioners Kristina Arriaga, Jackie Wolcott, Tenzin Dorjee, and Sandra Jolley.
“I call on the Cuban government to immediately cease its harassment of Félix Llerena and his fellow religious freedom advocates,” stated USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “We find it most disconcerting that the Cuban government took these actions immediately after Félix visited USCIRF. They must stop these repressive actions and instruct the university to admit him immediately.”
In USCIRF’s 2017 Annual Report released last month, the Commission stated that the “Cuban government actively limits, controls, and monitors religious practice through a restrictive system of laws and policies, surveillance, and harassment.” The report also highlights that Cuba uses policies of “short-term detentions of religious leaders, demolition of churches, and threats to confiscate churches.” The Commission again placed Cuba on its Tier 2 list of countries that have serious religious freedom violations characterized by at least one of the elements of “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations perpetrated or tolerated by the government.
“USCIRF has been in touch with the U.S. State Department, NGOs active in Cuba, as well as other individuals inside and outside of Cuba to monitor the situation for young Félix,” said Chair Reese. “When he met with us, he described a ‘recent wave of religious-related university expulsions’ and said he feared that this fate awaited him upon his return. Félix added, however, that he intended to stay true to his faith and continue to push for religious freedom in his homeland. He now suffers the fate of many others in his country.”