July 8, 2010.
Cuban President Raśl Castro has announced to Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino the immediate release of five political prisoners. Castro also announced plans to release 47 more prisoners in the coming months.
The prisoners' release comes after months of dialog between the archbishop and Cuban president.
Ortega y Alamino has been archbishop of Havana since 1981, though his spiritual path has not always been easy. He was ordained in 1964, but in 1966 was jailed by the communist government and put into forced labor.
Since becoming archbishop, Cardinal Ortega has cautiously sought greater human rights for Cuban citizens under a communist regime. His work has been compared to the young Karol Wojtyla, who fought for Polish people under Soviet control.
In 1998 Ortega helped organize the first papal visit to Cuba. Although he seeks greater freedom for Cuban citizens, Archbishop Ortega echoes the sentiments of Pope John Paul II. Both have warned that “hyper-capitalist” cultures are not solutions for communism.
Though he has a number of responsibilities as Archbishop of Havana, Ortega y Alamino's greatest accomplishment could be bringing greater freedom to an island often viewed as a place lacking in human rights.