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Exiles make special request of pope during visit to Cuba

Cuban exiles ask pope to address civil society, dissidents in meeting with government

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MIAMI – A group of Cuban exiles in Miami is hoping that Pope Francis will answer their letter pleading with the pontiff to include the Cuban people in his meetings when he visits the island next month.

The Democracia Movement on Thursday released a copy of the letter, which was delivered about two weeks ago to the Vatican.

The letter acknowledges a new era in relations and asks the pope to listen to and include Cuban civil society and dissidents in his dialogue with Raul Castro's government.

"The voice of the Cuban people is not there. The voice of civil society is not there," Ramon Saul Sanchez of the Democracia Movement said.

In the past, the Democracia Movement and its leader have staged flotillas and hunger strikes.  In the letter, they ask the pope to focus on family reunification, the right of Cuban exiles to travel back to the island and a better quality of life for Cuban people.

"There is no ideology included," Sanchez said. "We're talking about from the human rights perspective, a humane perspective. So our expectations are, if you bring this to the pope and you bring this to the international community, they would not be able to say, 'No. You don't have a right to those things.'"

The organization said the letter is the first step in its plan to support the inclusion of Cuban people in the political changes underway between governments.

"There are many things this new era will allow us to do," Sanchez said. "The tsunami has erased old policies, (and) we cannot go back. We need to focus on the future, new ideas and new visions as activists and representatives of civil society."

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