CUBA solidarity campaigners in the US urged Washington yesterday to follow Havana’s lead and free prisoners ahead of Pope Francis’s visit.
The organisers of a Days of Action for the End of the Blockade of Cuba event, starting in the US capital tomorrow, called on President Barack Obama to follow the lead of his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro by releasing some of the 2.5 million inmates held in US prisons.
Last week, Cuba’s government announced that some 3,500 prisoners wold be freed before the Pope visits the socialist island later this month.
“Why can’t Obama follow the Cuban example before Pope Francis continues on his tour to the US on September 22?” asked Alicia Jrapko, a spokeswoman for the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity for the Peoples, which is co-sponsoring the Days of Action in Washington this week.
“As his presidency winds down, Obama could do the right thing by releasing an equal percentage of the prison population as the Cubans did,” added Gail Walker of IFCO-Pastors for Peace, also involved in the event.
“Now that would be a humanitarian gesture that a war-torn world could appreciate and also a gesture of peace with justice to the visiting Pope. It would amount to freedom for tens of thousands of people.”
The campaigners suggested that those released could include US political prisoners such as black liberation activist Mumia Abu Jamal, American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier and Puerto Rican independence campaigner Oscar Lopez Rivera.