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Cuban exile community outraged over Cardinal's comments

Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega caused quite a stir recently when, during an interview, he said there are no political prisoners on the communist island.  Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela spoke with a group Tuesday who had evidence to the contrary.
Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega caused quite a stir recently when, during an interview, he said there are no political prisoners on the communist island. Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela spoke with a group Tuesday who had evidence to the contrary.

MIAMI, Fla. – The Cuban exile community, including former political prisoners, is outraged over comments Cardinal Jaime Ortega made during an interview with Spanish media outlet, Ser.

"In Cuba now, you won't find those prisoners," Ortega said.

"There aren't political prisoners?" the reporter asked.

"Not political," he added.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, calls the comments irresponsible.

Antunez, a high profiled dissident and former political prisoner, still lives on the island.

He's not surprised Ortega said what he said, because Antunez argues Ortega is an instrument of the Castro government, who uses his high-profiled religious position to squash the dissident movement.

But some in the religious community defend Ortega and argue he is walking a fine line in a communist country where religion was once banned.

It was just recently the Castro government gave the church permission to build a cathedral. Christmas and Good Friday are now national holidays.

During a press conference in Little Havana, Antunez called Ortega a coward, who the Cuban people and dissidents should not recognize as a servant of God.

His silence makes him an accomplice of the Castro government, which jailed and expelled priests and closed down churches in the past.

On Spanish radio, Ortega said, "You don't really find this so called dissident movement in Cuba. You find it more in foreign media, places like South Florida."

The timing of Ortega's comments, Antunez said, is no coincidence as the island is getting ready for a papal visit, a chance he argues for the Castro government to be redeemed in the eyes of Pope Francis and the international community.

Antunez said there is little hope he and other dissidents will be able to meet with Pope Francis.

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