Three Priests Ask Raúl Castro For Real Elections To “Avoid Violent Changes”

The signatories recall that the the Government restricts the manner in which religion is practiced on the Island, and mentions by way of example that public processions or masses must have the express permission of the authorities (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 January 2018 — Three Catholic priests have addressed a letter to President Raul Castro in which they ask the president to let Cubans “choose in freedom,” not vote. In this way, the priests warn, the island will have “different” political options to “prevent that one day, given whatever circumstances, Cuba is submerged in violent changes.”

The signatories of the letter, written on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the “Mass of the Homeland” presided over by Pope John Paul II, and reproduced in full in a public letter, are Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, of Camagüey; José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, from Trinidad, and Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca, from Holguín.

“We want to choose in freedom. In Cuba there are votes, not elections. It is urgent to have elections where we can decide not only our future, but also our present. Now we are invited to ‘vote,’ to say ‘yes’ to what already exists and there is no willingness to change. Choosing implies, in itself, different options, choosing implies the possibility of taking several paths,” say the priests. continue reading

The three priests note that, “Since the institutionalization of the Communist Party as the only party authorized to exist, this people has never been allowed to raise a different voice,” and emphasize that all criticism has been silenced.

According to the authors of the letter, the political changes they defend must be accompanied by the creation of a “Rule of Law” in which there is a clear distinction between the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and their independence is guaranteed.

“We want our judges not to be pressured, for the law to be order, for illegality not to be a way of subsisting or a weapon of domination,” argues the letter, which at the same time demands that the Capitol be filled with legislators who represent the interests of their constituents.” The letter denounces “the lack of religious freedom” since “the Church is tolerated, but it is constantly monitored and controlled.”

The letter also states that the Government restricts the manner in which religion is practiced on the Island, and mentions by way of example that public processions or masses must have the express permission of the authorities, and if this is not granted no explanations are given.

The legalization of private and independent media is another of the demands of the letter, whose signatories note that the Church does not have free access to the mass media in Cuba and argue that the “monopoly and control of communication media means that nobody can access public media freely.”

“Cubans have the right to participate as investors in the economy and in our country’s negotiations,” demands the publication, which blames the “lamentable economic helplessness” that Cubans experience on the lack of opportunities for citizens to invest in the island on an equal basis with foreigners.

Nor has education been left out of the epistle, which notes that although education is a guaranteed right on the island and schooling is compulsory, there is a “teaching of a single way of thinking.” The letter defends young people’s right to “educational alternatives” and “options for the teaching of thought” and goes on to say that parents should have the right to choose “what kind of education they want for their children.”

In recent years several calls for attention from Catholic priests to the Government have had a great impact on national and international public opinion. In September of 1993, when the country was immersed in a deep economic crisis, the Cuban bishops released the pastoral “Love endures all things.”

Twenty years later, in 2013, another pastoral titled “Hope does not disappoint,” signed by 13 active bishops and Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, addressed 43 points of the national reality that, from the perspective of the Cuban Catholic Church, should be improved.

Now, the three priests have chosen to publish their letter on a date to pay tribute to Archbishop Pedro Meurice Estiú, of Santiago de Cuba, who on January 24, 1998 gave a homily during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the island, an event at which Raúl Castro, then Minister of the Armed Forces, was also present. During the mass the Pope defined the Cuban people in a memorable way.

A growing number of Cubans “have confused the homeland with a party, the nation with the historical process we have experienced in recent decades and the culture with an ideology,” said the Archbishop at that time.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Letter to Raul Castro from Three Cuban Priests

A makeshift shrine to Cuba’s Patroness, The Virgin of Charity of Cobre, on Havana’s Malecon

To Raúl Castro Ruz on the 20th anniversary of the Mass for the Homeland celebrated by Saint John Paul II and the words of Bishop Pedro Meurice at Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba, on January 24, 1998.

On the first of January, the 59th anniversary of the triumph of a Revolution was commemorated. A Revolution necessary in the face of the atrocities committed with impunity by a power that had turned against this people. Many fought and many died to give their children a Cuba where they could live in freedom, peace and prosperity.

Today, almost six decades later, we have sufficient arguments to evaluate what we have experienced in our land.

Since the institutionalization of the Communist Party as the only party authorized to exist, this people has never been allowed to raise a different voice, rather, every different voice that has tried to make itself heard has been silenced. continue reading

This totalitarian style has permeated every layer of society. Cubans know they have no freedom of expression, they are careful in saying what they think and feel, because they live in fear, often even in fear of those with whom they live every day: classmates, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances and relatives. We live in a web of lies that runs from the home to the highest spheres. We say and do what we do not believe or feel, knowing that our interlocutors do the same. We lie to survive, hoping that some day this game will end or an escape route will appear in a foreign land. Jesus Christ said: “The truth will set you free.” We want to live in the truth.

The monopoly and control of communication media means that nobody can access public media freely. Similarly, there is no alternative education. Every Cuban child has a right to education and access to a school, but to a single model of education, to a single ideology, to the teaching of a single way of thinking. Cubans have the right to have educational alternatives and options for the teaching of thought, Cuban parents have the right to choose what kind of education they want for their children.

The economic helplessness in which this people lives is lamentable, forced by circumstances to beg for help from relatives who managed to go abroad or from foreigners who visit us; to ask for fair compensation or to steal everything they can, renaming theft with delicate words that help the conscience so as not to show it in all its harshness.

Many families lack a minimally stable income that allows them to acquire the basics of living without worry. Feeding, clothing and providing shoes for children is a daily problem, public transport is a problem, even access to many medications is a problem. And in the midst of a people that struggles to survive, the unspoken suffering of the elderly, often silently unprotected, is inserted.

How can it be said that capital belongs to the people, when the people do not decide what is done with it? How can the necessary public institutions be maintained if there are not the necessary resources? Why are foreigners invited to invest their money and Cubans are not allowed to invest theirs in an equality of opportunities? Cubans have the right to participate as investors in the economy and in our country’s negotiations.

And to all this is added the lack of religious freedom. The Church is tolerated, but it is constantly monitored and controlled. Full religious freedom is limited with controlled freedom of permission to worship. Christians can come together to share their faith, but they are not allowed to build a temple. The Church can hold processions and even public Masses, but always on the condition of an express permission from the authorities which, if it is not granted, is not subject to appeal or explanation. The Church can raise its voice in the temples, but it does not have free access to the mass media and, in the few moments when this does happen, it is always under censorship. The laity are censored when they try to apply their faith to political and social practice.

This social dynamic that has resulted in Cuba has forgotten the person, his dignity as a child of God and his inalienable rights; almost 60 years after this people believed in an ideal that is always postponed and never realized. When someone questions, when someone raises their voice, they find only vulnerability and exclusion.

We want a country where life is more respected from conception to natural death, where the union of the family is strengthened and marriage between a man and a woman is cared for; in which pensions are enough for our elders to live on; in which professionals can live with dignity on their salaries; where citizens can become entrepreneurs and there is more freedom of work and contracts for athletes and artists. Young Cubans should find work opportunities that allow them to develop their talents and skills here and not see leaving Cuba as the only way out.

We have a legality subject to power, the absence of a “Rule of Law.” The clear distinction and independence of the three powers is essential: executive, legislative and judicial. We want our judges not to be pressured, for the law to be order, for illegality not to be a way of subsisting or a weapon of domination. Let our Capitol be filled with legislators who, with full power, represent the interests of their constituents.

Our people are discouraged and tired, there is a stagnation that can be summed up in two words: survive or escape. Cubans need to experience the joy of “thinking and speaking without hypocrisy” with different political opinions. We are tired of waiting, tired of running away, tired of hiding. We want to live our own lives.

This letter also has a purpose, which is a right: We want to choose in freedom. In Cuba there are votes, not elections. It is urgent to have elections where we can decide not only our future, but also our present. Now we are invited to “vote,” to say “yes” to what already exists and there is no willingness to change. Choosing implies, in itself, different options, choosing implies the possibility of taking several paths.

If we write this letter is to prevent that one day, given whatever circumstances, Cuba is submerged in violent changes that would only add more useless suffering. We still have time to follow a progressive process towards a plurality of options that allows a favorable change for everyone. But time is running out, it is urgent to open the door.

There is no use hiding the truth. It is useless to pretend that nothing is happening. It is useless to cling to power. Our Master Jesus Christ tells Cubans today: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he forfeits his life?” We are in time to construct a different reality. We are in the time to create the Cuba Martí desired: “With all and for the good of all.”

We entrust ourselves to the intercession of the Virgin of Charity, Patroness of Cuba. She, Mother of all Cubans, intercedes before the Lord of history who, as His Holiness Benedict XVI said in Cuba: “God not only respects human freedom, but seems to need it,” so that we can always choose the greater good for all.

Father Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, Cura del Modelo, Camagüey

Father José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, Pastor of San Francisco de Paula, Trinidad, Cienfuegos

Father Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca, Pastor of Cueto, Holguín

Cuban Faces 2017: José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, Priest

Father José Conrado Rodríguez, priest of the Catholic Church in Trinidad, Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 December 2017 — More than a man who believes, the priest José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre (b. 1951, San Luis, Santiago de Cuba) is a human being who overflows with credibility from every pore of his skin.

He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1976 and since then he has managed to reconcile, without a shadow of contradictions, his devotion to the Church and his love for Cuba. He proved it in the almost 14 years that he was parish priest of the church of Santa Teresita in Santiago de Cuba and continues to do so in his new parish of San Francisco de Paula, in Trinidad, where he was sent in 2013.

In October, José Conrado presented his book Dreams and Nightmares of a Priest in Cuba at the Amphitheater of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami; in the book he says, “The Catholic Church of Cuba has a future of hope because despite the forces that have wanted to sow hatred in the Cuban nation, love has always triumphed.”

Among the irreverences noted next to Father José Conrado’s name in his secure police file is an open letter to the government of Fidel Castro, dated 1994, and another written in 2009 to the current president Raul Castro, as well as notes of his participation in the meetings of the Cuban Civil Society Open Forum.

Not satisfied, last July he accompanied the priest Castor Álvarez in officiating a mass at the headquarters of the Ladies in White in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton.

His pastoral work, his absolute detachment from material goods in favor of the most needy and, above all, his personal courage to conduct himself as dictated by his conscience, against all hierarchies, make this pastor a personality of the first order in today’s Cuba.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Obama Made The Mistake Of “Giving In Without Demanding,” Regrets Father Conrado

“The Church does not have many possibilities to help because the spaces that the Government gives are very small and because the Cuban Church is poor,” says the priest José Conrado. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 4 November 2017 — The Catholic priest José Conrado Rodríguez, parish priest of the church of San Francisco de Paula in Trinidad, visited Miami last week to present his book Dreams and Nightmares of a Priest in Cuba.

On the way to Miami’s Ermita de la Caridad, where he planned to offer his book to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, he spoke with 14ymedio about the Cuban reality and the role of the Catholic Church, the largest religious group on the island with a presence in each one of the municipalities of the country.

14ymedio/Mario Penton. What is your assessment of the Cuban reality?

José Conrado. Cuba is facing a huge material, economic, political and leadership crisis. It is the crisis of a model that has become insufficient and incapable of solving the problems of the nation, but at the bottom of this reality there is a deep spiritual and moral crisis. That is the root of the other crises. continue reading

What we are experiencing today has not come suddenly, but is the result of policies and deep attitudes that have led the nation to this deadend. The repression of freedom in Cuba and the religious conscience for many years has caused the crisis in which the country is sunk. It is the result of fear that has been planted, which is deep in the bones of people, in the most intimate, in the most personal.

14ym. If you keep raising your voice inside Cuba, why do you think the island government lets you leave and return, officiate Masses and even move freely around the country?

José Conrado. When one reaches a certain level of public and international recognition, the measures taken by the repressive organs are different. Because of being a priest, faithful to my convictions and pastoral work, they take care not to convert me into a problem with the Church. Nothing I do is bad. In no country in the world is it a crime to visit people, establish bridges and promote dialogues. The reality is that anyone can leave Cuba as long as they have the money for the passport and the visa of the country that receives them.

14ym. Do you feel guarded or persecuted by State Security?

José Conrado. Ah, yes. In Trinidad the largest urinal in the town is the door of my house, for example. I have denounced it many times, even from homilies, and nobody does anything. The men open their flies and in front of everyone they urinate on the door of the Church. There are even women who also do it. That is degrading. It is not by chance that we have denounced this so many times and it continues to happen.

14ym. Trinidad is a tourist village but you also know its poorest side. How is it that the city that does not appear in the guides for foreigners and what has the Church done to alleviate the hardships?

José Conrado. The Church does not have many possibilities to help because the spaces given by the government are very small and because the Cuban Church is poor. People get confused about the Church because it gives, but the reality is that it gives from its poverty. When the Church helps, it is because someone from outside the country gave something or because the faithful in Cuba, from their poverty, are capable of sharing. It is a true epic of the Cuban Church to help so many people with so few resources.

The programs of the parish are maintained thanks to my salary and the donations of the faithful. There is a lot of poverty in the cities but even more poverty in the rural towns. In the parish we are helping with food a group of about 20 children who do not have lunch at the rural school, but Hurricane Irma took the roof of the Church. Part of the money that is collected with the sale of the book Dreams And Nightmares Of A Priest In Cuba will be used to rebuild that site and another part will go to the victims of the hurricane in Ciego de Ávila.

We do everything we can to help people, but the service of faith in a people that has no hope is the greatest service we can provide. That is the mission of the Church.

Father José Conrado Rodríguez (center) during the presentation of his book at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, accompanied by Manuel Salvat and Myriam Márquez. (14ymedio)

José Conrado.The Church did what it had to do – I’m speaking of Pope Francis. However, I see an important fissure: it was an agreement between the greats: the hierarchy of the Cuban Government, the Church and the United States, but the solutions Cuba requires are deeper. If we must have a healing as a nation, we need to do it for all Cubans, not just the rulers. That is why any arrangement that only touches the upper echelons is an insufficient arrangement.

In Cuba, everyone wanted and had hope with the path that President Obama initiated, but the United States Government yielded and yielded without demanding. That is an insufficient way to negotiate. Human rights are the entitlement of every human being and it is not a subject that is dispensable in negotiations with Cuba. This agreement between Cuba and the United States did not reach where it had to go.

14ym. Many people criticize the silence of the Cuban ecclesiastical hierarchy regarding issues such as the violation of human rights on the Island.

José Conrado.I myself have said on several occasions that this silence can be considered a complicit silence, but it would be very unfair not to remember that the Church has raised its voice many times to warn of danger. When one thinks of the Pastoral Letter Love Hopes All Things, or the letters of the bishops at the beginning of the Revolution and the documents of the Cuban National Ecclesiastical Meeting, a more objective assessment of the role of the Church in the history of the country can be made.

Normally nobody collects the homilies of priests and bishops, where they also denounce, but that is not written. We have more commitment to doing than to saying. I think there is a lot of injustice, but above all, ignorance among those who say that the Church is silent.

14ym. How much remains for the Cuban Church to do to accompany the people?

José Conrado.We have made our way in the silence, in the dedication of each day, in the fidelity of the Christian people who have lived alongside the Cuban people and have suffered their pains, sharing their needs and witnessing the presence of God in the midst of the people. The Church has to look ahead and that has to be the legacy of the Cuban Church.

The Church runs the danger of the self-referentiality that Pope Francis speaks so much of, to become an end in itself. As if all that would be needed is that there were ever more powerful and numerous Churches, but we know well that this is not what would allow us to achieve the realization of the vocation of the Church.

In this sense, the Cuban Church has an advantage: it is already in the peripheries, but it must have more audacity. God calls us in a certain circumstance and the Church is called to serve, that is his vocation: to serve the needy, those who are being persecuted and crushed.

14ym. What leadership does Cuba need to get out of the crisis?

José Conrado.Leaderships can be of many types, for example Fidel Castro, who gathers power in one hand and takes it away from individuals. There are other leaders, such as Mandela, who did not need to divide because he discovered that in the forgiveness of the other, in the recognition of the other person and in confronting violent attitudes and the denial of the other is true freedom and the best way to be a leader.

I believe that the leadership that Cuba needs is the one in which the leader denies his power so that people learn to be free and build a nation with all and for the good of all that is born of participation and responsibility in the face of to the common good.

14ym. How do you assess retirement of Jaime Ortega at the head of the Archdiocese of Havana?

José Conrado.It is too early to answer that question, but knowing as I know the new archbishop of Havana – a man of deep faith and a very radical commitment to the gospel – I am sure that his presence in the Archdiocese will be of great benefit for the people of the capital.

14ym. How do you value the evangelical churches gaining more and more ground in Cuba?

José Conrado.If Christ gains ground in Cuba, we all win. If a person truly becomes a Christian, we are happy whether he is Catholic or Protestant. Those who are not being Christians are those who, by considerations of doctrine, leave the path of charity. Among Catholics and Protestants in Cuba I see above all a lot of understanding and a lot of love. There are rare cases of those who react violently to another religious belief.

The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá's Funeral (Luz Escobar)
Oswaldo Payá’s Funeral (Luz Escobar)

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002  the European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami.

Paya’s death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked activists who shared his democratic ideals, “What is the greatest legacy of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?”

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation, beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People’s Assembly on a citizens’ petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro’s totalitarian state. continue reading

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, promoter of Constitutional Consensus

I see the legacy of Oswaldo Paya in his pioneering activity to demonstrate that it was possible to generate civic trust towards democratic change. Even he had many doubts that the public would respond positively, would commit itself to a proposed change, especially at a time like the 90s and early 2000s when it was even more difficult for the civic movement. That’s what he sowed, what he left as a legacy, which demonstrated this as a future possibility for all pro-democracy activists on the island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the digital magazine Convivencia

First we recall our brother Oswaldo Paya with much love and affection and I would especially emphasize the future, in his legacy, the legacy he has rendered to all Cubans and so I think of the three gifts he left us. First, his posture, his civic attitude. He was a citizen who forged this society and who knew how to awaken a consciousness to fight for democracy in a peaceful way, and from there came his second contribution. Oswaldo was a man who fought tirelessly throughout his life with peaceful methods without being provoked or coming to violence. Finally—I have to say it—as someone who is also a Christian: he was a man who understood that religion could not be alienated or be divorced from the reality in which he lived, and that was why he was deeply committed as a Christian to work for democracy in Cuba.

Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre, Catholic priest

Oswaldo has left us a legacy full of sincerity and honesty; a love sacrificed for his country and a genuine commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel embodied in social life, in political life, in the good of others, everything that has to do with society as such. His was a radical commitment to the gospel, but at the same time, as it should be, to every human being. In remembering him, we must pay tribute to the man he was in every dimension, while we feel the pain of the brother we lost and we ask God that there be many others like him, men who can give their lives for others, in silence, in humility, in the midst of the misunderstandings of men, but certainly with a total commitment and a quality of life that today illuminates the existence of those of us still here.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

There is no doubt that the late Oswaldo Payá left an everlasting impression. We remember him as a determined and courageous Cuban who, from an early date, assumed the method of nonviolent struggle with the intention of bringing Cuba the rights and freedoms that we have lacked for half a century. The work of the Christian Liberation Movement set a tone in peaceful actions in favor of the fair, free, democratic and prosperous Cuba that we all want, this was the side he was on.

The Varela Project, the citizen initiative launched by Oswaldo in which so many of us became involved full-time, also set a tone in the actions of the fighters for democracy. Initially, there were more than 11,000 people, in complex and difficult circumstances, circumstances that were against those who collected signatures and against those who signed that citizen petition. The fact that for the first time so many Cubans defended a proposal, putting their names and identity data, supporting the five points that made up the project, it was a real milestone.

Personally Oswaldo was a great friend with whom I shared both difficult and happy moments. We are very mindful of that. The Cuba Democratic Union (UNPACU) will render the homage he deserves on this second anniversary of his tragic death.


Today, from 6:45 PM (Havana time) there will be the premiere of a documentary about Oswaldo Paya of the Varela Hall of Ermita de la Caridad in Miami, Florida. The video can also be viewed simultaneously on

Jose Conrado: “I ask Pope Francisco to be firm with the rulers.” / Ramiro Pellet Lastra

An interview with Father José Conrado, from Cuba, by La Nacion newspaper.

Photo: The Pope, yesterday, leaving the Mass he gave on the day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo: AFP

By Ramiro Pellet Lastra  | LA NACION  

José Conrado describes himself as a “small-town priest.” But from his parish in Santiago de Cuba, or in the colonial city of Trinidad, to where he was transferred, he throws verbal darts with a “language of the barricade” against corruption, repression, and other hallmarks of the Cuban government. Close to the dissident movements, Conrado has suffered pressure, aggression and even exile.  But he has continued denouncing the leadership of his country, as in this dialogue with LA NATION newspaper, during a visit to Buenos Aires, after attending the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

Conrado only set aside denunciation in favor of enthusiastic praise when he analyzes Francisco‘s performance at the head of the Church, a man he trusts, and whom he hopes that “when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.”

How do you see the Cuba of today?

– Cuba is a bankrupt country, economically and morally bankrupt. From a family point of view, it’s an eroded country. There is not a single Cuban who doesn’t have relatives abroad, including Fidel Castro, who has several grandchildren and a daughter outside of Cuba as political exiles. It is a country where everyone, for one reason or another, has suffered the imprisonment of a family member, the death of a family member, in front of a firing squad or in the Straits of Florida. It’s a country with a history of political imprisonment.

-Why in Latin America there are those who still have a good image of the Castro regime?

-I think there is a certain complicity of the Left that wants to see Cuba as paradisiacal paradigm of what Revolution is and what social accomplishments are. There is also an ongoing press campaign on the part of the Cuban government. And there are the visitors to Cuba, because tourists see Cuba from air-conditioned buses and from five-star hotels.

-People came out into the streets to protest in many countries, democratic and non-democratic, but they did not do it in Cuba.

-People in other countries saw a space for freedom that made them decide to forget the spaces of their fear. We haven’t yet gotten to that point. I believe we have a point where this will happen, but we aren’t there yet. In Cuba, a popular saying goes: There’s not one to turn the government over to, but nor is there anyone who can fix it. Everyone in Cuba knows we must have change. It is a silent and unanimous agreement among all Cubans.

Will perhaps a minor incident light the fuse like in the “Arab Spring”?

-Yes, that could happen. I think the government stays away from large crowds.  They don’t have as many large demonstrations as before. I think the government has been very astute to not permit acts of unchecked violence on the part of the police. I think that people would throw themselves into the street [if such acts happened].

-And in this context, what prospects does the government have?

-The seriousness of the situation is forcing the government to think of another way out. Today they are proposing that those whom they always considered their eternal and bitter enemies, Cubans in exile, invest in Cuba..

As a Latin American priest, how did you experience the election of Pope Francisco?

-Francisco is a gift from God for a time of crisis. He is man who is above the conventions of the left and the right, because he goes for the essential, and the essential is God and the people who are suffering. Pope Francisco knows that he is a servant.

-Could he influence not only for Cuba, but for democracies in trouble?

 -I think that he is going to have great influence, because the Church needs a reform from within. How is he going to preach to the politicians not to steal otherwise? A Church renewed from within is an example for these men who have great responsibilities.

-In addition to being an example, could Francisco influence through his discourse, through direct denunciation?

-Yes, of course. I don’t ask the Holy Father to speak the language of the barricade, like I, a small town priest, do, but I do ask him to be very firm with the rulers. That when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

1 August 2013