Frei Betto: Lucidity in Brazil, Disingenuousness in Cuba / Mario Barroso

Frei Betto in Havana

[Please see the Translator’s Note below for the context for Mario’s post.]

I’ve been an avid reader of the writings of Frei Betto. Saving theological differences I admire his life and his books. I think there is correspondence between what he says he believes and what he has lived in Brazil. He has always expressed his choice for the lowly and the downtrodden, inspired by Jesus, as has always said, and that’s what I think has characterized his conduct. I respect human beings who live what they claim to believe. Such was the warning of Christ: By their fruits ye shall know them. Betto’s conduct is known and respected by many people across America.

No wonder the exaggerated publicity in the media monopoly in the hands of the Cuban regime to the words* of someone as he pronounced them in the recent nine-hour meeting of intellectuals with Fidel Castro on February 10. No statement of any of those present was as widespread as this. On one hand the well-earned reputation of Betto, and on the other the apparent crisis between the Gospel and the increasingly stark reality of the Cuban system, with the caudillo himself admitting the failure in that other famous interview where he said that the Cuban model does not work not even for us.

This crisis is demonstrated by the many references to theme of religion in the speeches of the gerontocracy of the past year tell me what you boast about and I will tell you what you lack, says the popular proverb. Hence the applause for the words of the Brazilian friar, as biased and out of context, but so necessary in a subject prioritized by a regime that languishes and intuits that if it clings to the religious tablet, especially on the eve of the visit of a pope, life will come to it.

I do not know if Betto in his meditations and prayers has moments of clarity regarding the issue of Cuba, it is not very difficult that this could befall him as the evidence as to pulverize Castro’s propaganda multiplies on every side.

But if it is not so, it Betto suffers from the evil of the worst blindness, that of he who will not see, I presume at least that even my admired Dominican come these words of a village priest immersed in the base of what we call deep Cuba, away from the glamor of the book fairs, and the conferences of Havana, the only Cuba that Betto seems to know.

Fortunately I am in the social place of Cuba that Betto has always chosen in his Brazil. From my place I am a witness and regular victim of the ongoing violations that this regime exercises on the human rights of Cuban citizens he preys on.

I can hear, see and feel the contradiction between what this regime, which Betto still seems to believe it, says and what it practices. I admire the clarity with which Betto noticed these same kinds of contradictions in his Workers Party (PT), a process undoubtedly painful for him, but I wonder how Betto has not been able to admit that the Cuban Revolution is not made up of the best raw materials.

If I had the freedom to travel has Betto — denied for certain people like me, as demonstrated by the recent refusal by the same government that he defends to allow Yoani Sanchez to travel precisely to Brazil (nineteen denials four years) — I wonder how he would take if I were to flatter Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and declare, as he has done with respect to Cuba, that the southern giant is an evangelical work, ignoring the slums that still abound. This is the same thing that Frei Betto has come to do in my country.

It is true that his interview Fidel and religion became a bestseller since the friar spoke to the bearded one of issues which nobody had touched before. I think Betto’s mistake then, was to take at face value, uncritically, all the cynical words of the interviewee.

The evasion to his question of whether some temple had been closed in Cuba during the Cuban revolution, and finally, at the insistence of Betto, was answered with a petulant lie, gave the interviewer the opportunity to discover the impostor in tome, but unfortunately, he allowed him the swindle.

Ignacio Ramonet had a similar opportunity to ask the same respondent about Raul Rivero and the cause of the 75. How Betto was unable to understand that on that other occasion, when Fidel told him that of the Beatitudes he preferred Matthew as this does not contain, like Luke, the curses to the rich oppressors, he was saying that he knows the trial which awaits him for his many crimes and abuses of power.

And, although Betto has a hard time recognizing it, his idol, the interviewee of his bestseller, unfortunately is no exception in this world and he, too, for a long time, was infected abundantly, by the bite of the blowfly.

Translator’s note:

Here is a summary from Cuban State-controlled media regarding the subject of this post (the English version is theirs).

Brazilian Theologian Frei Betto Thanks Fidel Castro for His Struggle

Havana, Cuba, Feb 11.- Brazilian theologian Frei Betto thanked Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro for his life-long struggle on behalf of the poor, at a meeting held in the framework of 21 International Book Fair, underway in Havana.

Betto thanked Fidel “for his patience, his dialogue, his capacity to listen” and said he would pray for the life and heath of the man whose work he dubbed as “evangelical”, because “it fed the hungry, cured the ill, gave work to the unemployed, just as the Holly Scriptures ask”

In the 9-hour long meeting, held in Havana this Friday night, Betto urged the participants to assess their “social insertion” and to generate projects to fight global social injustice.

The Brazilian intellectual joked about Fidel Castro’s stamina when he called the participants to wrap up the meeting since Fidel had to “attend to three delegations, read many news and some books” and added they shouldn’t ask about the miracle (Fidel’s health recovery), since it was a
Cuban government’s “secret.”

The meeting, organized by the “In Defense of Humankind” Network, convened in Havana under the motto “in favour of peace and environment”, and it is inserted among the activities of the 2012 Cuba International Book Fair to run from February 9 through the 19.

March 1 2012