While President Obama enjoyed a baseball game in Cuba, a pastor was detained by authorities while his wife and children were placed under house arrest without any connection to the outside world.
“The Communist government wants to control who goes to church — they want to control religious expression in their country,” explained Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs. Baptist Minister Félix Mario Lleonart Barroso crossed the government of Fidel and Raul Castro by holding illegal church services in his home. While Obama visited the Caribbean island, the government held Barroso hostage to keep him and dissenters like him quiet.
A strong police presence surrounded the pastor’s house on Saturday, March 19, and Barroso was detained on Sunday, as Obama entered the country. Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, the pastor’s wife, said he was forced into a police car as soon as he stepped outside his house. Barroso sent a letter to a local newspaper, condemning the violation of human rights in Cuba.
For weeks now we have been warned that we would be kept from moving around freely during Obama’s visit to Cuba. These warnings are now being put into effect. As declared by the United Nations, today is the International Day of Happiness, coinciding with Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week observances. I will probably be arrested, although I have no plans of going to Havana.
There are two primary reasons that Barroso is a target for Cuba’s government, Nettleton explained. First, Barroso runs a house church, which is illegal. “Every time they meet, the people and the pastors understand they’re risking arrest,” Nettleton said.
Secondly, Barroso runs a blog which “regularly reports on the oppression of religious minorities, particularly Christians, in Cuba.” This is important, Nettleton added, because such reports disprove the narrative of the Castro regime, that Cuba is a peace-loving, free island paradise.
“The story that the Cuban government tells — that everyone is free to worship as they see fit — is a fantasy,” Nettleton declared. “With President Obama coming, obviously they were very concerned about any public display of discontent or anything that would pull back the curtain.”
The Voice of the Martyrs spokesman added that Barroso’s wife “was put under house arrest, along with their daughters, and the phone lines were cut.” He emphasized that this family was by no means the only group of people detained for Obama’s visit.
Next Page: More Detained During Obama’s Visit, Photo of Pastor Barroso and His Wife.
“Many of them were detained either in police stations or house arrest and basically kept under wraps to make sure there wouldn’t be any kind of disturbance during President Obama’s visit,” Nettleton said. He added that “the vast majority of Christians in Cuba worship in an illegal setting.”
House church pastors like Barroso are “off the Christmas card list for the Communist regime.” That’s one way to put it.