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.

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