If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart

Photo: with friends Roberto Pisano and Leonardo Delgado

Mario Lleonart, 29 January 2016 — A few days ago (January 15th and 16th) I took part in a gathering in Miami of the Coordinating Liaison Committee of the Cuban National Meeting, of which I am a member, along with eight others. On the 18th, on Martin Luther King Day in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I paid tribute to King, joining in the parade in his honour distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 19th I visited locations in Sarasota and Manatti, Florida, which had been pounded by tornados early in the morning of the 17th. Continue reading

The "Che" of Argentina / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 19 December 2015 – Although I arrived in Argentina under the assumption that the common notion of Ché Guevara would be the romantic, absurd idea of the mythical nonexistent hero, and not the executioner and murderer that Cuba got to know in La Cabaña, I can’t deny that I was surprised to discover that I was wrong. And I discovered this in nowhere else but Rosario, his city of birth.

My first surprise was finding out that in the house where he was born, an insurance company now resides — and not just any insurance company. It’s MAPFRE, a Spanish multinational that works in the insurance and reinsurance sector, has a presence in 49 countries, and whose stocks are listed on the stock exchanges of Madrid and Barcelona.

The only homage to Ché’s birth is found on the sidewalk, because the property is now completely dominated by capitalism. I understood that even in Santa Clara, Cuba, the Argentinian guerrilla fighter had become a piece of sales merchandise for tourists, but what I hadn’t imagined was that even here in his own birthplace, the system that he fought so hard against was the dominant one.

But my biggest surprise was that, during the days I spent in Rosario, just blocks from there, in a park where he is honored, someone had tossed paint on an image of him, and below that an immense piece of anarchist graffiti declared: “Ché is dead”. And no one seemed to care.

 

Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Lleonart, 26 November 2015 — Mauricio Macri won. For those who hope for democracy in Cuba, the best option won. Although the recently-elected President hardly mentioned the island during his campaign, it is clear that the cause of liberty in Cuba will have a friend in him. His references to the situation in Venezuela have also been a wake-up call for the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

If he manages the transition well in his country, his will definitely be a major mandate. Nevertheless, Macri needs to get himself prepared for governing Argentina, starting off from the disaster left by Cristinismo [ed. note: Cristina Kirchner’s administration], which will signify quite an achievement in view of the obvious boycott by officialdom, which is showing a certain reluctance in handing over power. A gesture far-removed from what politicians who are really interested in the future of the country, and respectful of the popular will should do. Continue reading

Another Prisoner Swap? / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 30 October 2015 — Once again the name of Ernesto Borges Pérez returns to the public arena, generating new expectations about his release. He has served more than seventeen long years of the thirty to which he was sentenced, after his death sentence was commuted at the prosecutor’s request. Ernesto’s advance disclosure thwarted the illegal infiltration into the U.S. of twenty-six Cuban spies, of the hordes frequently sent there. But at the cost of seventeen unrecoverable years from Ernesto’s valuable life. Everything indicates that he is the bargaining chip long set aside to trade for the spy Ana Belén Montes.*

Ernesto may finally go free and benefit from his heroic action, which by any measure was invaluable, whatever the price paid. I hope that the answer to the prayers we have raised for so long finally arrives. Ernesto’s parents Yvonne and Raul, elderly and ailing, can still experience the greatest happiness of their lives. His brother Cesar, and Paola, his only daughter, in exile, can laugh again. And he, with his tremendous human virtues, strengthened in prison, can still be of great benefit to a world greatly in need of heroes like him.

*Translator’s note: The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst convicted in 2003 of spying for Cuba and sentenced to 25 years in prison. See, e.g. “New Revelations About Cuban Spy Ana Montes.”

Translated by Tomás A.

PIGS! / Mario Lleonart

Drawing by El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) of the piglets he intended to release in a street performance in Havana.

Mario Lleonart, 18 October 2015 — For the second time they have lied about a release date for prisoner-of-conscience (so designated by Amnesty International) Danilo Maldonado, better known by his artistic name “El Sexto” (The Sixth). First they announced his release for August 24. Then for September 15. But now we know they lied disgracefully on both occasions.

The regime’s own behavior regarding this prisoner of conscience shows the relevance of the performance that he intended to put on when they arrested him last December: “Animal Farm.” They behaved like pigs, just as he thought. His crime was to have the courage to label them with exactly that description: PIGS! There is something Biblical about this! Continue reading

Quo Vadis* Francis? / Mario Lleonart

Those of us who lived through the repressive crackdown that took place in Cuba in 2012 during the visit of Benedict XVI have never received a response from the Vatican, although it was informed of the facts. Jose Conrado—the priest who is a maverick within the Catholic Church in Cuba, like a modern-day Father Bartolome de las Casas**—met with many of us on March 29, 2012, in the home of Ismael de Diego, to share experiences of what happened during the papal visit to Cuba, the police crackdown called “Operation Vow of Silence.” The priest expressed regret and personally delivered letters and videos to the Apostolic Nunciature. But they didn’t even give him the courtesy of a response. As a result of this crackdown some activists were detained for more than two years without even the formality of a trial. Continue reading

A new case of fraud shakes Cuban universities / Mario Lleonart

A new case of academic fraud this Thursday has shaken the universities. A group of first year medical students in Villa Clara province were able to see in advance the answers to the morpho-physiology exam, which was sat Thursday July 2nd. According to various witnesses, the sale and circulation of the test was so widespread that it occurred in other venues, such as Sagua la Grande.

The immediate solution they are going to arrange is to get all the first year students to repeat the exam next Monday July 13th. At this stage it is not known whether any penalties will be applied to those who committed the fraud, nor whether they have made public the source of the leak. The only details which are known have come from those who have to retake the exam, with some students  complaining they are paying for the guilty ones.

This type of scandal in the academic world has occurred frequently in all educational levels. In July last year this daily paper reported the leak of various final tests in Medical Faculty Number 1 in Santiago de Cuba. On that occasion 23 students were directly involved in the leak and distribution of the contents of the second year anatomy and statistics exams, 4th year English, and the so-called State Test. On that occasion, the Teachers’ Board at the centre called for a sanction of two years’ suspension from higher education for the students involved in the act.

Translated by GH
9 July 2015

The Cuban Evangelical Churches Face Future Democratic Elections / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 30 June 2105 — A paper I presented on Monday, June 29, at the event “Paths of Transition”, in Havana (a theoretical conference concerning on issues of democratic construction in Cuba).

In the present order of things, the Cuban State boasts about how some of its deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) are evangelical pastors, or have some other leadership position in the Protestant religious environment, which is an evident attempt at necessary auto-reaffirmation of that constitutional change which took place in 1992 of declaring a hitherto religiously atheistic State to secularity was more than a simple change of letter.

These exceptional cases of Protestant leaders that the Government boasts about, as in the case of other minorities, such as women, with regard to sex, or blacks, with regard to race, have helped soften the image which from all appearances is monolithic clearly from the ideological point of view that characterizes this body from its first organization. It is a sort of, “You tell me what you boast about and I’ll tell you what you lack.” Continue reading

The Violations of Religious Freedom in Cuba Continue / Mario LLeonart

Mario Lleonart, 22 June 2015 — Cuban Christians are grateful to Christian Solidarity Worldwide for the constant monitoring of violations of religious freedom in our country. I’d like to thank the Washington Post for giving this message a voice as other organizations like the Anajure in Brazil have done. I’d like to especially thank you for mentioning the theft of the lot belonging to our Baptist church in Yaguajay where our baptist college was held from in those times when we were also able to contribute to education.

Translated by: J. García

Profile of a Father / Mario Lleonart

Right about now, on this Father’s Day, Raúl Borges Álvarez is surely living something similar to what he has been suffering for 17 years, petitioning the prison where one of his two sons is held which will not even concede the possibility of letting him out on parole, to which he is entitled by law — all because of blasted politics!

At Havana’s Santa Rita Church — as at various other churches across the country — mothers, sisters, daughters and friends of many other political prisoners penalized for political differences attempt to gather each Sunday to attend Mass and later march, each holding a gladiolus. According to the latest statistics from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), there are around 71 prisoners on the known list. The women who march for them are known as the Ladies in White. Continue reading

Why The Beatings? / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 5 June 2015 — Beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Havana have been in the news for eight consecutive Sundays. In one of the first rounds, the son of the labor leader Jesús Menéndez was dragged for several yards along the ground with no concern for his advanced age.

On the seventh Sunday, between beatings and more beatings, it was obvious that another attempt was made to kill Raúl Borges Alvarez, this time with a sure blow to the chest–no matter (or, actually, because of) his having undergone heart surgery. Continue reading

Four Years Without Justice / Mario Lleonart

Juan Wilfredo Soto García, “The Student,” October 13, 2010

May 5th was the fourth anniversary of the brutal beating of activist Juan Wilfredo Soto García, which resulted in his death two days later. It was followed bythe deaths of noted leaders Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, in which many also acknowledge the presence of the criminal hand. The effectiveness of extrajudicial execution, verified in the case of Juan Wilfredo Soto and amply proven by other governments, is also beyond doubt in Cuba.

The regime that began with firing squads no longer needs them. The moratorium on the death penalty since 2003 is possible because those in power have perfected their method of eliminating political opponents, paying for it at the lowest possible price. North Korea, which “judicially” exterminates without ceremony, as demonstrated again a few days ago, should take lessons from its more sophisticated Cuban allies, the best students of Machiavelli. Continue reading

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, from Cuba / Mario Lleonart

Photo of the author

Although today [15 January] is a holiday only in the USA, I also in my own way celebrate it in Cuba. Why not join in the celebration of the birth of the Baptist pastor and fighter for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.? His life is inspirational for many of us, including me, who every day seek freedom and equality for human beings, all creatures of God.

 His existence is one of my answers to those who in Cuba who question why I combine theology with social activism. I have not invented anything new. It is the most natural thing to combine ideas and actions, and this was what happened in the life of the Reverend King. His sermons, his philosophy, his methodology, his strategy of nonviolent struggle, his life and his martyrdom are an example to follow in any dark corner of the world, and also in the illuminated places, to prevent anyone ever to darken them.

The last time that I mentioned his name to those who are responsible for repressing me in Cuba was on October 26, when I arrived from Poland, two agents from State security awaited me at the airport for questioning about my statements in the land of Lech Walesa and my subsequent activities and position in Cuba.

According to them my pastoral ministry should be confined to the four walls of a church to which they would gladly cloister me. My answer was that in addition to the unsurpassed example of Jesus Christ, I admired and tried to imitate, except for the distances, transcendental beings such as the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszco and the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr.

To which one of them, with the obvious threat that the same thing could happen to me, he riposted: What a coincidence, that all of them are martyrs!

Hopefully just like in August 1963, when he achieved that historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in Cuba soon we will be able to realize something similar of our own in Havana, which, as the successful artist Tania Bruguera demonstrated in the recent events on December 30, so far remains forbidden to the people.

In the midst of our Cuban reality of continual violations civil rights, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our luminaries.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

Spanish post
19 January 2015

The situation of religious liberty in Cuba / Mario Lleonart

The delegation from Instituto Patmos, invited by United for Human Rights to the celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During all of 2014 this blog, Cubano Confesante, I examined the best part of the thirty questions that doubt the supposed religious liberties in Cuba, which were launched in September of 2013 during the trip we took to Washington, invited by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

These analyses were the object of discussion in forums and workshops convened by the Instituto Patmos in various sites in Cuba, and at times also some of those posts were the fruit of these. This contributed to sharing these contents in an island where access to internet is difficult. Continue reading

My Encounters With Popieluszko / Mario Lleonart

With my brother in Christ Dagoberto Valdes during the homages to Jerzy Popieluszko

In June of 2013 I travelled for the first time to Poland and made an inevitable visit to the tomb of the Polish martyr Jerzy Popieluszko. All the way from distant Cuba, Popieluszko for me embodied the logical challenge of faith in the face of a totalitarian system that is an enemy of God.

If in life Popieluszko more than fulfilled his pastoral duty of defending his fold against the wolf, in death he showed the world the utter impotence of a regime capable of resorting to assassination to silence a prophet, and clearly put in contrast the borders between good and evil in the Poland of 1984.

My return to Poland in October 2014 coincided with the 30th anniversary of the crime agains Popieluszko, and constituted a theological lesson on the implications of the martyrdom of the saints – in particular, the eschatological truth of the Resurrection and the Christian hope that celebrates as ever-living those exceptional beings such as Popieluszko, even though their remains still rest in their tombs.

Here I am in the church with the sister and brother of Popieluszko

This time my pilgrimage was not in solitude in search of a site of mystical quietude, as in 2013. It was more like a grain of sand among compact multitudes who were expressing our admiration and remembrance of the good pastor who did not flee when he saw the wolf approaching. At the same time, we were celebrating the fruit of his sacrifice: democracy and liberty in today’s Poland.

Among the first changes evident after 1989, perhaps imperceptible among many enormous and transcendent transformations, was the inclusion (a happy initiative of Lech Walesa’s) of a chapel in no less than the symbolic Presidential Palace – which would have been inconceivable during the period of totalitarian misrule.

Expression of liberties gained constitutes proof that the physical death of the martyr Popieluszko, rather than rendering him invisible, immortalized him to his people and amplified the values and virtues that he preached and practiced in life.

A radiant sun on Sunday, October 19, provided an extraordinary setting — as if in respite from the harsh, quasi-wintry days of autumn — to thousands of Poles and hundreds of citizens from the world over gathered at the place that guards the remains of the martyr who awaits his resurrection.

It was the natural testimony of the celebration in heaven and on earth honoring the the life that Death did not cut short, an evangelical reaffirmation that there are some who kill physical bodies, but they cannot kill souls. Blessed Poland that has her Popieluszko as a sign that in her, the wolves could not — without pastoral resistance — attack the sheep, who in fact chased away the wolf that attacked their pastor.

Multitudes at the tributes to Popieluszko

Multitudes at the tributes to Popieluszko

Happy Poland for not accepting the lament (in other contexts a fitting one) in “Ring Them Bells” by Bob Dylan: “Oh the shepherd is asleep/ where the willows weep/ and the mountains are filled with lost sheep.” God willing that in any part of the world where, as in Cuba, wild beasts have their lair, there be pastors like Popieluszko capable of facing them down, true to their calling, even — were it necessary — unto the sacred privilege of martyrdom.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

29 October 2014