On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estévez, who has led the Cuban diocese of Guantánamo-Baracoa for the past 10 years, will now be taking over as the new Archbishop of Camaguey.
Announced Dec. 6, the appointment comes after the prelate’s lengthy time in the diocese of Guantanamo-Baracoa.
Born in Camaguey Oct. 12, 1950, the bishop studied philosophy and
theology at the Major Seminary of San Carlos y San Ambrosio in San
Cristóbal de La Habana.
He was ordained a priest Aug. 1, 1975, for the Archdiocese of
Camaguey, where he then served in various capacities, including as
Parochial Vicar of Nuevitas; treasurer of the parish in Florida, Cuba;
National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works and as pastor of
Sant Cruz del Sur.
Bishop Pino was also on the diocesan committee that organized St.
John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998. In addition, he later served as
pastor of Merced, Rector of the Diocesan House, Episcopal Vicar for the
city of Camaguey and director of the diocese’s newsletter.
He was appointed as Bishop of Guantanamo-Baracoa by Benedict XVI Dec. 13, 2006, officially taking the reins in January 2007.
During his time as bishop of Guantanamo, Pino has had to oversee the
diocese throughout many years of conflict regarding the disputed U.S.
Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
The detention facility in Guantanamo Bay was opened in 2002 as a
supposedly secure way to detain terror suspects who were captured from
the War in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, and who were deemed too much
of a national security threat to keep on American soil.
Detainees were treated as “enemy combatants,” and since they belonged
to a terrorist group rather than a country, the U.S. considered as
complying with the Geneva Convention to hold them on non-U.S. soil and
try them in a military court. Almost 800 detainees reportedly passed
through Guantanamo from 2001-2008.
Human rights experts commissioned by the United Nations expressed
concern about interrogation techniques used at the prison in a 2006 U.N.
report based on information from the U.S., former detainees and their
lawyers. According to the report, the techniques were considered
In recent years, the U.N.’s human rights head repeatedly asked the
United States to close the prison, speaking out against the prolonged
detention of prisoners without trial.
Many bishops in the U.S. and at the Vatican have in the past
disapproved of the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo and
the conditions at the prison, however, the Cuban bishops themselves have
typically refrained from making major statements, given the sensitivity
of the political situation in the country.
In December 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Vatican
officials to seek their help in re-settling remaining detainees.
In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his
intent to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a proposal that
Catholic bishops have long supported.
According to the Guardian, the Pentagon said the release of Yemeni
prisoner Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, announced Sunday, has lowered the number
of prisoners held at the base to 59, with 20 of the remaining prisoners
having also been approved for release.
However, as the Obama administration prepares to step down following
the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president, doubt has
arisen as to whether the plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention
center will in fact move forward.