Lech Walesa: “Cubans need responsible leaders” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Lech Walesa during the conversation with Cuban activists, with his translator Tomasz Wodzyński

Lech Walesa during the conversation with Cuban activists, with his translator, with his translator Tomasz Wodzyński

The Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks with several Cuban activists on the situation of the island and the possibilities for democratic change

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Warsaw, 21 October 2014 — Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa had an agreement that death annulled. The two would go to Havana when the democratic transition occurred to support the process of political and civic reconstruction in our country. The “Cuban change,” however, has been too long delayed and the Czech died before realizing his dream. The Solidarity leader, meanwhile, has only been able to have contact with the island through dissidents visiting Poland.

Yesterday, Monday, Walesa talked for more than two hours with a group of activists from diverse provinces and political leanings. It was if a piece of Cuba had arrived in the autumn cold of Wasaw. I share here with the readers of 14ymedio the first part of that conversation.

Lech Walesa: Tell me what can I do to help speed up the democratization process in your country. Am I likely to see a Free Cuba before I die?

Dagoberto Valdés. I have good news for you and a suggestion of how you can help. A significant and growing group within Cuban civil society has identified four points on which we agree and which are demands to the regime. It is a way of organizing ourselves, but not the only one. There are other agendas, but I will now read the four issues on which we converge: the release of political prisoners, the ending of political repression, ratification of International Covenants on Human Rights, and recognition of Cuban civil society as a legitimate interlocutor. You could collaborate with us to disseminate these and support them in international forums.

Lech Walesa: I like those points, but I would add a fifth which would be to ask that “Raul Castro leave power,” because I think when the previous four are achieved it will be because the current system has been dismantled. If the rulers accept that agenda, that would mean that they would lose power immediately. So I think that they will never approve them, but in any event I support them.

I like those points, but I would add a fifth which would be to ask that “Raul Castro leave power”

Yoani Sánchez: You wonder when you can visit a free Cuba, but for now what has happened is that a fragment of an already free Cuba has come here. A plural, diverse and growing group of Cubans, who behave as free beings, have come to Warsaw this week. Isn’t that hopeful? Continue reading

Poland, Walesa, and a Journey to Freedom / Intramuros, Dagoberto Valdes

Dagoberto Valdes and Lech Walesa

By Dagoberto Valdés Hernández

For years I had a dream. Today it has been realized. Poland has always been part of my cultural, religious and freedom identity. Disappearing several times on the map of Europe, “semper fidelis” Poland maintained its nationality thanks to its rooted ancient culture. I learned from Poland, and its greatest son, Blessed Pope John Paul II, that culture is the soul of a people and the soul is immortal. Since then I have dedicated my entire life in Cuba to rescuing, promoting and cultivating the cultural identity of my Fatherland.

Later, I had the inexpressible honor to participate in the preparation for the Polish Pope’s visit to Cuba in 1998. And to be one of his colleagues at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Now I have arrived in twenty-first century Poland. I walk the path of his roots. The path of his history. I drink from the sources. Thanks to Lech Walesa Institute.

As luck would have it I arrived in this country on June 4, the anniversary of the elections won by the Solidarity Union. I’ve met its leaders. Heard their testimonies of their lives. Their love for Cuba. On Thursday June 6 I personally met the living legend of the last stage of Polish history, President Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and and legendary leader of the Solidarity Trade Union.

Just after eleven o’clock he came hurrying to the headquarters of the Institute that bears his name and where he continues his work. He entered the meeting room and sat with confidence. He greeted us. He spoke briefly and quite frankly about his impressions of Poland and Cuba. Respectfully and cordially he gave us the floor to ask him questions or to give him news of the Nation  where he said he wanted to go one day when we have freedom and democracy. Each one expressed his thoughts and his admiration for his work and the history of his nation.

Personally, I enjoyed the meeting. I looked at the lapel of his suit and found there, as always, the blessed image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, Queen and Patroness of Poland. I heard him mention with deep devotion the name of Blessed John Paul II, his role on the long road to freedom in Europe and in his homeland. The support the Polish Pope always gave to Solidarity and its leader. His visits before and after the change. Continue reading

Reasoning with Antonio Rodiles / Reinaldo Escobar


Translator’s note: Our apologies for not having a subtitled version…

As of this afternoon the latest chapter of Citizens’ Reasons will be available, dedicated to discussing a topic that is abstract but essential: Legitimacy. Participating on this occasion are Dagoberto Valdés, Miriam Celaya, Antonio Rodiles and, as moderator, this humble servant who is pleased to announce the program.

Of particular interest is the presence of the animator of the space Estado de Sats — Antonio Rodiles — who was arrested just as we were finishing editing the chapter.

As its title indicates, this edition of Citizens’ Reasons tries to respond to the question of to what extent we citizens should recognize the legitimacy of the “current” Cuban government and what we must do from civil society to achieve our own legitimacy.

The arbitrary arrest of Antonio Rodiles occurred confronting a department of State Security while participating in a civic and peaceful action to inquire about the situation of the attorney Yaremis Flores. There he was brutally beaten, but it was not his attackers who had to answer to the law, but rather the victim, accused of “resisting arrest.” At the time of this writing the courts have not ruled on the matter.

This has been the reality that gives the context to what is discussed in the most recent chapter of Citizens’ Reasons. I recommend that you watch it.

16 November 2012

Oswaldo Pay: Example and Legacy / IntraMuros, Dagoberto Valdes

From blogs.fco.gov.uk

By Dagoberto Valdés

On the afternoon of Sunday, 22 July 2012, we were surprised by unexpected and terrible news: Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founder and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), had tragically died near the city of Bayama, seeking the roots of our Cubanness to say goodbye to the land he loved so much and for which he fought so peacefully.

Today Oswaldo’s life appears more transparent and coherent than ever. Death is, for everyone, a summary, a transition, and a lesson.

His history is not yet written. But his accomplishments are. And it is not good to wait too long to put everything in its property place when there is, starting now, an example and legacy to gather, apprehend, and continue. I try, although still moved by the immediacy, to outline what this loss and this gain has meant to Cuba, its present and its future.

Loss, because each person is unique and irreplaceable. Gain, because nothing is lost and everything is gained and the depths of the earth when a good seed falls in the furrow of life, to bring forth more fruits.

I met Payá when he was young, almost a teenager, in one of the halls of the Cerro Parish, where Father Petit was then his pastor and mentor, in a meeting of the few young people who professed the Catholic faith in the hard years of the ’70s. Those were the days when we were discriminated against just for going to Church and declaring in our school records whether or not we were believers.

Oswaldo’s entire life, like that of so many Cuban men and women faithful to Christ and to Cuba, is a daily offering of civil martyrdom of all those who are treated as second class citizens, as “unreliables” for living in what became to be called “a fantastic reflection of reality” for having religious beliefs.

At that time, neither he nor I yet had our own and various projects for Cuba and its freedom and prosperity. But we trained in the bosom of a poor Church, persecuted, committed and faithful to the gospel of its Founder. We received, through the Church, that we must recognize and thank forever, an ethical, civic, religious, and very Cuban education, that followed the saga of Varela, Luz, Mendive, Marti and many others. That is the origin, the cause and the root of our lives and the soul of our Christian commitment. That is its deep motivation, its essence, inspiration, style, methods, criteria of judgment, determination of values, ways of thinking, examples of life.

Each who has lived in his way, as it should be, diverse in the Christian social commitment, but united in the bowels of the Gospel, the Church and Cuba. From this fraternal and daily fellowship where a life is over too quickly was forged, I give testimony to what I think is the legacy of Oswaldo to Cuba and his Church.

His person and his path

For all of Cuba, Payá leaves the trajectory of a coherent life. Of a whole man, of one piece, true to what was, what is and what will be: a human being who does not want to us to deify him, who doesn’t need it, who already has and believes in one true God. He was a human being, on earth, with his faults and virtues. But most important is that in his existence there was no contradiction between who he was, what he though, what he said and what he did. Cuba needs men and women with this morality, the “sun of the moral world.”

For all of Cuba, Payá is also a citizen who freely chose to stay in his country, despite the constant threats and dangers. A citizen who did not remain in internal exile or the alienation of an ivory tower, or who “took refuge” in an opiate-religion, but who learned from his Master Jesus that true religion is the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection.

The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was an expression of this active and systematic engagement. The Varela Project is another example of his faith in action, being the most important civic exercise in the last half century, that managed to transcend the boundaries of the MCL, to be and exist with “All Together”. Cuba needs citizens to stay here, who are one nation with those who work hard to find peaceful solutions.

For the Church, Oswaldo is a paradigm of vocation and mission of lay Christians. He did not abandon the Church in spite of the sorrows and misunderstandings. he did not use it for political purposes but demanded the same thing it taught: consistency and faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ.

The Church needs lay people involved in the world of politics, civil society, culture, economy … and the laity need not be excluded, nor seen as rare, both Tyrians and Trojans, because of their commitments, be they political or civic. They need to be considered and followed, without taking its own political choices, both in life and in death, as do our parish communities, priests, religious and bishops. Just as with other, laypeople who are caregivers, teach the catechism, work in Caritas, pray the Rosary, or animate a mission house. This is what we see and thank Paya’s funeral.

For the Church, Payá is also an example of Christian prophecy. He was the voice many who did not have a voice, but he did not disqualify or exclude his brethren who thought differently. To disagree and debate, is not to exclude. To exclude is to segregate the family of those who are considered “dissidents” or “dangerous” or “troublesome”, or not accepted by the powers of this world. Oswaldo suffered this and much more. But his prophecy did not rest, nor was it exhausted. He denounced the ills suffered by the people and the Church that formed a part of him. He announced the Christian liberation and he created, proposed projects, thinking, laws, new roads, in an absolutely peaceful and proactive way.

Cuba and its Church need this kind of prophet who not only denounces but also proposes solutions and puts them into practice, patiently and bravely.

The immediate fruits of the death of Payá

Here, in the Cerro Parish, with the body still present, we can observe various immediate fruits of the sacrifice of Oswaldo Payá. I will mention a few:

The physical family of the deceased gave testimony of spiritual strength, serenity and faithfulness to the work of Oswaldo. Mired in unspeakable pain they did not lose the integrity or peace of knowing that their husband and father has given his life to a worthy cause and died in the fulfillment of Christian and civic duty.

The Church, Payá’s religious family, offered during his burial an example of communion without exclusion, solidarity in pain and coherence with what it preaches. It has been truly organic and sacramental from the Good Shepherd, from the Pope’s condolences to the last parishioner of the parish who offered water or consolation, through various religious congregations, the pastor, other priests and monks, evangelical pastors, bishops and their bishop the Cardinal, whose homily must be studied and lived. All united by faith in Christ and love for Cuba. Despite the normal and even desirable differences, in the healthy pluralism of the People of God. As the fruit of a Church united in diversity, embodied, prophetic and reconciliatory dialogue, beginning with itself.

Civil society, the citizen family that shares the same history, nation and destination, has also, on the occasion of the death of Payá, shown a clear and unequivocal gesture of unity in diversity, respect for differences without disqualification, excluding hatred, confrontation and other human miseries that we all have and must overcome, to put above all ideological and political differences, which in themselves are not bad … to put above all Cuba, our homeland, the common home, its freedom and prosperity. What I saw there, that mature civic spirit and weaver of coexistence, is the Cuba that we dream of are building together.

The diplomatic corps, represented there as well as the press,accredited or independent, also show respect and the normality with which observers, international and our own, consider Cuban society as a pluralistic body in a process of maturation and serious and peaceful commitment with the changes and democracy.

These gestures have also been made possible by the good will and civic and political maturity of civil society. Other immediate fruits might be mentioned as an example and comforting encouragement to family members of his movement and friends. In the future to come in the medium and long term, surely we will see more that one seed is capable of producing, a symbol, a paradigm, a flag of peace brought by love. No one can calculate.

I want to end by saying that at Oswaldo Payá’s funeral I noted that pluralism and respect for the unity in diversity have come gradually, first to the life of civil society and, in some ways, to the life of the Church, the people of God. May God grant that will also reach the State that it will move them, so that Cuba will be a home where “we all fit.”

I pray to God, for the intercession of Oswaldo Payá, of Harold Cepero, of Laura Pollán, of Wilman Villar, Wilfredo Soto, Orlando Zapata, Pedro Luis Boitel, and many others, who were faithful to their faith and their ideals in this life, that comes to an end, fully, for all in Cuba, with respect for pluralism, unity in diversity, ethical, civic and religious coherence, that we have received as the raised and hopeful fruit of the living cross, the cross accepted by these our brothers.

They were able. We follow his example and legacy.

So be it. Amen.

August 9 2012

The Death of Oswaldo Payá and the Opposition in Cuba / Yoani Sánchez

In less than a year the Cuban opposition has lost two of its most important leaders. On October 14 of last year life of Laura Pollán, the principal coordinator of the Ladies in White and the key figure in the release of the Black Spring prisoners, was cut short. A week ago a car crash, yet to be fully explained, claimed the life of Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement.

These activists had great national and international recognition and their physical absence comes at a time when the dissidence is seeking new horizons. Hence, the need to analyze the scenario in which these deaths have occurred, and their potential impact on the immediate future.

On thing about which there is no doubt, is that the Cuban opposition on the Island is characterized by its peaceful nature and its renunciation of armed violence.  It prefers to base its actions in political programs, documents demanding respect for Human Rights, street demonstrations, signs painted on facades, or simply open door meetings.

It behaves and manifests a much more democratic behavior than the government installed in the Plaza of the Revolution. Within the ranks of the dissidence there is a great variety of opinions with respect to possible paths and outcomes of the transition. Although some of these routes diverge, there are numerous points on which all converge. The urgent need for political, social and economic changes is the common thread that runs through civil society.

Calls to end the harassment of dissidents, arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prison sentences, form a part of this common agenda. In addition, everyone agrees that Raúl Castro’s government has exhausted its solutions to pressing national problems.

To talk or to overthrow

Although many schemes have been offered to classify the Cuban opposition, most of the studies have focused on the political leanings of the groups within it. Some analysts have established generational breaks, between the historical opposition and much younger actors. In practice, however, it is not political colors or age that differentiate most markedly the dissimilarities between dissident organizations. A key point is the legitimacy they assign to Raúl Castro’s government in their agendas and their proposals for change.

Some maintain that dialog with the authorities could possibly lead to a non-violent transition. Within this line of thinking are distinguished figures such as José Daniel Ferrer, president of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, who believes that “dialog is possible, but from a position of strength within civil society.”

Others dismiss any attempt to deal with the regime, basing their posture on the fact that it was not chosen by a vote of the people in free and direct elections. They see the Communist Party as a kidnapper of hostages with whom there should be no negotiations under any circumstances. To negotiate or to overthrow seem to be the two poles around which current opposition forces are defined.

The United States embargo also constitutes a parting of the ways that defines postures and platforms. Within the Island, many dissidents argue that economic restrictions must be maintained to strangle the government. They believe that allowing fluid trade with the United States or allowing Americans to travel to Cuba would be a source of fresh air that would strengthen the General-President. José Luis García (known as Antúnez), an opposition leader from the center of the Island is one of the main champions of this position.

The great challenge of the people

The Cuban dissidence is denied any opportunity to access the mass media. This significantly limits its ability to broadcast its proposals and political programs. Instead of allowing them even one minute in front of the microphone, Raúl Castro’s government uses television and the official press to accuse them of being “mercenaries in the pay of the Empire,” or “tiny groups of no importance.”

Human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez, opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque, Catholic layperson Dagoberto Valdés, and the Ladies in White group have all been frequent targets of these media stonings. From different perspectives, these social actors could be key in the years to come, along with several socio-cultural projects such as Estado de Sats, directed by Antonio Rodiles, which even attracts people involved in State institutions. To support these activities with a constant dissemination of information becomes vital, hence the importance of independent journalists and alternative bloggers.

In the current scenario, Oswaldo Payá’s death raises the question of the future of the Christian Liberation Movement, which has many members throughout the Island. That this political force manages to survive the death of its founder will demonstrate the maturity of the entire Cuban opposition.

On the other hand, Raúl Castro has co-opted some of the points that made up the agenda of his political opponents. The aperture for small private businesses, the ability to buy and sell houses and cars, and the leasing of vacant land in usufruct, are all part of the measures implemented by the government in the last four years. Such a scenario obliges the opposition groups to chart new horizons and to redefine their proposals.

30 July 2012

The Cuba That Will be Visited by Pope Benedict XVI / IntraMuros, Dagoberto Valdes

By Dagoberto Valdes, Pinar del Rio

Cuba is not the same as in 1998 when John Paul II made the first papal visit in our history. Its government is not the same, though essential and structurally, it remains the same system. Its Church is not the same in its workings and leadership, although essentially and structurally, it also remains identical. The political opposition is not the same; although many groups and historical leaders remain, a new generation has been incorporated, and the number of small parties has been reduced, as consensus and alliances are formed. I think what has changed  the most is the rest of independent civil society.

At the same time, the Pope who is coming is Benedict XVI, another person with another style of his pontificate.

So I think it is very important to approach the Cuba the Pope will visit. It is one of the horizontal forms of participation in the preparation of the visit. The closer it gets, the necessary knowledge and information available will consist more or less of the messages and gestures of the Pope, and the more or less objective will be the analysis and evaluation of his trip.

This is my vision of Cuba, just before the announced and expected visit:

Economic vision

The economic changes started timidly do not substantially transformed the centralized and predominantly state owned system. The Cuban state keeps for itself the monopoly of major industries and companies. Land is not delivered in ownership but in usufruct, and the the so-called self-employed are only allowed in a short list of medieval crafts.

The buying and selling of houses and cars is a change only for those who have more. The economic crisis is the result of a economy subsidized first by the Soviet Union and now Venezuela. The government does not free up productive forces and blocks real initiative, open and efficient from all Cubans. So the system is biting its own tail by not recognizing private, cooperative and mixed-ownership of property, not accepting free enterprise or the possibility of investment from both foreigners and Cubans in the diaspora.

Unemployment is rising, there is growing inequality between the few who can and the many who may lose even the little they had. Bread is missing from and freedom, which was the cost paid half a century ago, has not returned. The economy does not run on ideologies or with slogans and cosmetics, it runs on the economy.

However, the Pope will find a people that wants to lift its head, that has not lost initiative and entrepreneurship and that demands more and more strongly its right to economic freedom with responsibility and social justice. For some and for others we would expect a word of ethical encouragement and inner strength from the Pope.

Political vision

The totalitarian Marxist Leninist project is exhausted. It has not achieved the expected results in fifty years, patiently endured by Cubans. It imposed a high human cost and reduced fundamental human rights and responsibilities. State paternalism transformed the people en masse, and changed the entrepreneurial person into a dependent who lives “the culture of the caged chick.” In the unforgettable  words of Archbishop Meurice in Santiago de Cuba on the former apostolic visitation, “a growing number of Cubans … have confused the country with a party, the nation with the historical process we have experienced in recent decades, and culture with an ideology. ”

However, the Holy Father can find another group of Cubans committed to the politics of its country, with alternative projects to integrate Cuba into the community of democratic and prosperous nations, while safeguarding citizen sovereignty and national independence. For them as for others, we expect an acknowledgment and a word, based on the Gospel and the Social Doctrine of the Church, summarizing ethics and politics as service to the nation.

Social vision

The Pope found a society that has suffered the consequences of both the economic crisis and political authoritarianism, such that inequality has increased between those with access to remittances from family or friends abroad, or work in joint ventures or foreign missions, and the majority without access to hard currency who survive on totally inadequate wages.

Unemployment multiplied corruption, the black market, moral relativism and the deterioration of values and virtues of the identity of the Cuban people. Alcoholism, prostitution, unstoppable exile, suicide and despair of not having viable life projects, are some of the doors through which Cubans try to escape the social anomie they suffer.

However, the successor of St. Peter will also find a subsistent moral substrate, a sense of social justice and equality of opportunity, a solidarity that relieves poverty but does not cure the root, and can find small social responsibility initiatives that sustain the certainty of the ability of civic recuperation of Cubans, even under daily repression. All of this in framework of a growing web of independent civil society is best articulated through the use of new information technologies and communications. It is the Cuba of autonomous cultural projects, bloggers, independent journalists, human rights groups, the well known Ladies in White and other initiatives.

To confirm and encourage the progress of this social recuperation, we expect to receive words and gestures of the Pope that recognize the pluralism and diversity as wealth. And we want the Pope to preach in Cuba what can be read in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The political community is essentially in the service of civil society and, ultimately, people and groups that compose it. Civil society, therefore, should not be considered a mere appendage or a variable of the political community; on the contrary, it has the preeminence, as civil society is precisely what justifies the existence of the political community. ” (Compendium of ISD No. 418, p. 231. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004).

Religious view

The pope will find a church more diverse, more present in public life, more missionary, but one that still does not enjoy the authentic religious freedom that is not only freedom of worship, nor relationships based on “permissions” of political authority. He will find, also, a visible and public improvement of relations between the senior church hierarchy and the senior government hierarchy, but still part of His faithful children suffer for their faith, for the consequences of Christian social engagement and for their political choices. A church that still learns responsibility, unity built in diversity and inclusion of all its children who have, as is legitimate, different political, economic and social choices. A church that still learns to be a true mother and teacher, and mediates and shows solidarity with the oppressed.

However, the Vicar of Christ will also find the deep Christian matrix of our culture, a widespread, personal and communal religion, a thirst for God and a hunger for a transcendent and fulfilling life while building the Kingdom of God on this earth. For all its children, not just for some, the Church should receive from its Universal Pastor a word of confirmation in faith, hope and love that unites us and includes us all in its diversity.

Anthropological view

The Pope can find in his in his upcoming visit something less visible, less studied, but absolutely most important and decisive for the future of Cuba. This is the main character, subject and purpose of all this: the human person that is every Cuban.

In my opinion, of all the disasters suffered in this half century of totalitarianism, the most serious and lasting damage is anthropological. A person who has a great share of his inner freedom blocked, is crumbling from lack of oxygen to his own humanity. A person whose individual responsibility is systematically blocked, or superseded with authoritarianism and paternalism, stops growing and becomes an adolescent in civic terms.

The blockade of independent or community life projects crumbles the human soul and promotes existential despair. The blockade of personal, free, and responsible participation, aand the blocking of public spaces where the venture acquires essential community character, causes an unstoppable desire to flee into external exile or internal alienation.

However, the Pope also will find people who have survived almost miraculously by their own efforts in this anthropological disaster. Generous people who have given their lives to serve their countrymen and the world. People who have been healed of this interior damage and work to heal other Cubans here and in the diaspora. Cubans who are free and are responsible and are the bridge and road to the unity and fraternity of the nation, wherever they live.

As the Church is, above all, expert in humanity, both groups should receive from the Pope this nutritional supplement of the spirit that faith in God is inseparable from faith in the supreme dignity of the human person. The spiritual nourishment that does not put new patches on the damaged tissue of citizens and civil society, but renews from the inside the soul of the nation that suffers, works, struggles, loves and hopes in the incomparable green island in the Caribbean.

“You are, and must be the protagonists of their own personal and national history.”(John Paul II in Cuba, 1998)

The Cuba Pope Benedict XVI will visit is one and plural, less flat and more complex. It’s not as simple. It is at the same time, the Cuba of faith in God and human betterment, and the distrust of others in the power of men. It is the Cuba of the irrevocable hope of some, and despair of others who are tired of waiting and who show it however they can. It is the Cuba of the love that unites us and hate that excludes us. It is the Cuba that tries to dialogue among its diverse children and all represses those who are different. It is the Cuba of the dispersion, unique as a nation, on pilgrimage on the island and in exile.

Fernando Ortiz said that “Cuba is a melting pot.” I would say yes, but in these times, the torrid heat of the tropics sets the pot on fire, thought at times it appears in a blackout. We know that inevitably we are called to save everyone, each other, from violence and death, and to save our common home, setting Cuba on the path of fraternal coexistence and civic friendship which, according to Aristotle, “is the greatest of the civic assets, and with it civil strife will be redeemed.” (Cf. www.convivenciacuba.es. Editorial 25).

So, I think with the unforgettable John Paul II that we should not expect from without what we should build within. We should expect from above what we should construct, block by block, from below. We must not promote any other earthly or pseudo-spiritual messianicism that causes flight from the world. Nothing will be achieved in Cuba without the person in each one of us Cubans and all that must be built so that God and the world, including the Pope, will one day soon find a Cuban nation healthy, free, adult, responsible and fraternal, open to the world and integrated into the international community.

This is what I hope. It is for this that I live, work and have decided, with the grace of God, to stay in Cuba.

Translated from Diario de Cuba

20 March 2012

Convivencia [Coexistence]: Test, Maturation and Growth / IntraMuros, Dagoberto Valdes

Dagoberto Valdes speaking on the 4th anniversary of the magazine.

Dear friends of Convivencia:

The time God gives us to do good works and grow in humanity passes quickly. We are already celebrating the fourth anniversary of the digital magazine Convivencia.

The presence of all of you here and the multiple and diverse collaborators that have written for the magazine in these twelve months, show that a magazine does not stand alone, nor only through the members of its editorial staff. The magazine is created and maintained by its collaborators who put their names and thoughts at the service of the present and future of Cuba, and in consideration of all who want to read, learn to think, disagree, suggest, propose and work.

This year of 2012 has been a year of tests, maturation and growth.The three things that have contributed the magazine being more well-known, more read, and more sought after.

Tests such as the harassment, accusations and pressures of every kind, direct and indirect, that serve to strengthen our spirits, purify our intentions and sharpen our good will and our methods of working. The early Christians, persecuted by the decadent Roman Empire, used to say with simplicity that it was given to them to suffer: Per crucem ad lucem: Through the cross to the light.

All this produces maturation of people and works. Maturation that means: the ability not to let ourselves be manipulated from one side or another; to be faithful to our purpose and to our identity as a project of Cuban thought; to exercise citizen sovereignty and freedom of expression, in an ethical way, respectfully and proactively, putting our love for Cuba, the welfare of Cubans, above everything.

There are no better fertilizers of growth than these movements of the human spirit: through the cross to the light; and of this personal and community maturation. This is the secret of the growth of Convivencia. There is no doubt that the attacks of the Media of Communication officials have contributed to helping us learn and mature.

We give thanks to God for the solidarity, understanding, respect and affection that thousands of people and many institutions, within and outside of Cuba, have offered us. This has made our name, Convivencia, be one more experience of living and sharing for a large number of Cuban men and women who look with hope on the future of Cuba.

The magazine Convivencia lives for them.

Thank you very much.

January 26 2012

Pedro Claro Meurice: Cuban, Pastor, and Faithful Friend / IntraMuros

Death is step and journey in the essence of life. Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiu course, retired archbishop of Santiago de Cuba has ended his fruitful and suffering journey for the time he lived. Cuba has lost one of its greatest pastors of all time and has gained one of the holy intercessors who has known its deep reality.

Meurice, undoubtedly, has a place alongside bishops such as that other Pedro, Morell de Santacruz, or with Espada, the most Cuban of Spanish bishops as Martí called him, or his own friend and father, Monsignor Enrique Perez Serantes, whose personal secretary he was.

I am honored to have been his disciple and friend. I met him when I was a young man of barely 25 and he was the archbishop president of the National Commission for the Laity. He was for me a paradigm, a stimulus and a counselor. Hard as a rock, paternal like a grandfather, tender as a child.

But mostly I remember the two major events of the Church in Cuba in the last half century: the Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting (ENEC, 1986) and in the unforgettable visit of John Paul II to Cuba in 1998. In the first event I can not forget his passionate devotion to the Father of Cuban culture, Felix Varela, reading the decree to begin his canonization still pending and slowed down.

The Pope’s visit I could not remember without hearing, in the hollow of the Cuban soul, that clear and courageous presentation of his people before the blessed image of the Virgin of Charity and the Supreme Pastor of his Church. Never were the reality, the hope, the transparency closer to the heart of the people and their Queen and Mother.

Cuba remains as described by Archbishop Meurice. Nobody has narrated a diagnosis so endearing, respectful and truthful of their homeland. This text should be published and studied again. I witnessed with much love and how much did this presentation cost, as valid and urgent now, 13 years later.

Time soothes and balances, eases and melts, in the historical memory of peoples life, the service and the example of its protagonists, will one day make the biography I tried to begin one day starting with over a hundred questions, of course incomplete and put aside the humble sanluiseño. I know other good Cubans tried to save his image and did so with unsurpassed audiovisual work on his predecessor.

As that time comes, I leave my simple testimony to his glorious and no longer breathless remains, forever serene, these three words and an adjective with the haste of the moment that forced me to tax my homage:

Meurice has been and is: a Cuban, a pastor and a faithful friend.

Cuban: Above all a man of a single piece and a consistent and contagious ethic, true to his country, its history, the soul of the nation and to San Luis and Santiago of his hopes and tribulations. All he did was to be faithful to that love without cracking and without duplicity. Cuba should honor him as one of its finest sons. In time it will.

Pastor: faithful to Christ, his only and beloved Lord. The Gospel and its blessings, which were his compass and his way. Faithful to the Church that he served non-stop, without measure, saying sometimes yes and sometimes no, according to his conscience dictated in full communion with his faith and his brothers. The Church in Cuba should honor and revere him as one of its most faithful pastors and saints. In time it will.

Friend: faithful to the nearby and distant in geography, but always faithful to friendship lucid, critical and transparent. I learned from him that one may be, at the same time, oneself and a friend of those who think or believe like one. I learned also from Meurice, that one may be Cuban, pastor and friend without conflict of duties and subdivisions. Time will make that friendship sown, cultivated, preserved and shared, the best altar to the Patriarch Archbishop Primate of Cuba.

How he succeeded, like P. Varela, to unite in one heart the love of Cuba, of Christ and his church,admired and reverent at the altar of the Fatherland of the Church, the living sacrifice that was Pedro Claro Meurice Estiu, who true to his two names, was able to combine the strength of the stone and the clarity of light in the same breathless tenderness of his invincible hope.

Archbishop Meurice: Pray for Cuba, for its Church and for each one of us! Amen.

By Dagoberto Valdés

Pedro Pablo Oliva and Henry Constantin: Two Examples of the Blockade on the World of the Cuban Culture / IntraMuros, Dagoberto Valdes

By Dagoberto Valdes and the Editorial Board

In editorial No. 14 of Convivencia Magazine (www.convivenciacuba.es) of March-April 2010, we said that:

“In the last year there has been a visible increase of the natural diversity of expressions of men and women in Cuba. This plurality has been manifested, mainly, in the cultural world. This world has been always a very multicolored one. And in the last fifty years, it has been treated more with subtle censorship and exclusions than with more direct methods. Thus, the cultural and educational world was expressing itself, more and more, in a peaceful way, critical, punctual and persevering. Instead of more room for debates; instead of opening the existing paths to the diversity of opinion and action, the answer has been the growth of violent repression, direct, without a mask nor subtleties as before.”

The last two milestones with this sad reality have been: The closing down of Pedro Pablo Oliva’s studio in Pinar del Rio last May 14, 2011 and the “cancellation” of the enrollment and grades earned over two years, by the blogger from Camagüey Henry Constatin, who is also a member of the editorial boards of the magazines Voces and Convivencia and who participates in the preparation of the serial Citizens’ Reasons, an audiovisual space for independent debates that address different aspects of our national life. Both decisions damage noticeably the spirituality and creativeness of the Cuban nation. So we expressed in the afore-mentioned editorial only a year ago.

“Those who blockade the cultural world, those who gag the arts, those who uglify beauty and turn off the lights of letters and the truthfulness of dreams for freedom, for justice and for love in Cuba, are crossing a very dangerous red line: Not only are they repressing the artists’ creativity, and the honesty of the intellectuals, or the sincerity of the communicators, but also they are repressing the nation’s soul. Those who repress the soul of the people in order to try, unsuccessfully, to smother the motions of the human spirit, are inflicting the greatest of anthropological damage on their citizens, fatally wounding the spiritual stability of the nation and executing it by means of the irreparable slope of violence, which nobody wants.”

On the now closed door of Pedro Pablo Oliva’s house, the greatest living artist of Pinar del Rio, there’s a phrase that speaks clearly of his great soul: “strictly prohibited to stop dreaming”. So responds this Cuban who loves so much his motherland, who gave so much for it and who did so much good, discreetly, to Pinar and to Cuba. All artists, intellectuals, cultural or civic animators, know that Pedro Pablo, his home and his help, has been always in favor of the realization of the best dreams of each one of us. His moderation, his humble life and his desire for a universal inclusion of everything good, right and beautiful, mark his attachment to the homeland and his indelible contribution to the culture. Reading the exhortation to don’t stop dreaming, I couldn’t avoid recalling the end of the number 14 editorial of Convivencia which is another way to say the same thing and to dream of a better future for Cuba and its culture.

“This world is upside down. And one day will be straightened. And the artists will create and express in free public spaces, respectfully and participative. And the bloggers will write and launch to the world their blogs without gags or blockades on the internet. And the musicians and composers will say, with their free musical notes and free lyrics, what their souls want for the good of all. And the writers and artisans will let fly in the air letters and shapes as free as they are responsible. And the educators and students, methodologists and directors of education, will not fear students expressing themselves, or gathering freely without the surveillance of their custodians with teacher faces. And every one, men or women, will contribute, express or intervene in the public spaces, in the cultural environments without the horrible nightmare of being labeled as a worm or a mercenary.

This world will come, nobody doubts it, and then Cuba will stand up and will close the door on the gag. And the threatening arms of brother against brother will be lowered. And the offenses between lifetime neighbors will end, and fear and the threats from our phones and squares will end. And families divided by all these will be reunited. And, then, it won’t be a day for revenge, or for hate, or rancor. Cuba, every Cuban man or woman, will brick up the door to violence and repudiation. And we will open between all of us, with the beauty of the arts and the letters, with the truthfulness of the ethical and civic education and with the kindliness of the peaceful coexistence, the ample door, diverse and fraternal of the National Home that it is and it will be forever this Cuba that still navigates in hope.”

Pedro Pablo and Henry, you know you can count on the solidarity, the affection and respect of many people in Cuba and overseas. Even the silence of fear speaks by itself. It’s only a matter of not sinking in hopelessness. It is only another big blackout. Let there be light.

Translated by: Adrian Rodriguez

May 26 2011