Cuba state media detail Spanish priests’ slayings

HAVANA (AP) — A church statement with details about the slaying of two priests was published Sunday by Cuba’s Communist Party youth newspaper — an unusual step in a country where state-controlled media rarely report on religion or common crime.

Sunday’s story in Juventud Rebelde was the first chance most Cubans had to learn about the investigation into the crimes that have sparked rampant rumors.

The statement, issued by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, said police had arrested the alleged killer of Rev. Mariano Arroyo. The priest’s body was discovered July 13 at his parish in the coastal neighborhood of Regla on Havana Bay across from the capital.

It said a suspect had confessed to murdering the 74-year-old native of Cabezon de la Sal in Spain’s Cantabria region. ”Possible accomplices” also have been captured, according to the statement, though it did not describe them.

The story said authorities also have arrested ”at least one person who has confessed” in the killing of Rev. Eduardo de la Fuente, a 59-year-old Madrid native. His body was found stabbed inside his partially torched car on a highway in a remote area outside Havana in February.

”Those who committed that crime didn’t know their victim was a priest,” it said.

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega spoke at a Havana Mass in Arroyo’s honor Friday and said that the two killings were not related and that police had made arrests and secured confessions in both cases.

”The Church is aware of the shock, concern and questions that many Catholic faithful have in the face of such unusual occurrences as these,” the statement said.

It went on to say that the “Church is ready to firmly reject any attempt to relate one case to the other, or find religious or political meanings that are totally the opposite of the reality of these criminal actions.”

The communist government never outlawed religion, but expelled many priests and closed religious schools after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Tensions eased in the 1990s after the government removed references to atheism in the constitution, followed by a visit from Pope John Paul II. – Vacation rental in Havana, Cuba