By Alexis Jardines and Antonio Rodiles
The most recent editorial in the Cuban Catholic Church’s journal Lay Space (Espacio Laical) put on the table for discussion, once again, several critical points regarding the course that should be taken in the Cuban transition.
First, we have to say that we find it most interesting that the current circumstances push political actors to publicly express their positions. It becomes ever more difficult to act “behind closed doors” in an age when an information flows and is leaked so easily. This is a fact undoubtedly surprising to those accustomed to intervening from behind the scenes.
Currently there is an intense lobbying effort focused on getting the government of the United States to relax its policy toward the regime on the Island. This onslaught occurs through three different actors. The first is the Cuban government, the second is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and the third is made up of certain sectors of the exile. Although several analysts see this as a coincidence of interests, we think there is little coincidental about this coordinated action.
The concern of many activists over the role the church hierarchy is playing in this political chess game has been accompanied by reports in various media. These recriminations should never be taken as an intent to attack the Cuban Church, though certain groups would like them to be, but rather as a wake-up call about the role that this institution should play, and the concern that it could become hostage to some particular interests.
The editorial in Lay Space appeared not only to compensate for several missteps by members of the journal’s own editorial board, but also for the “blunders” of Cardinal Jaime Ortega on his recent trip to the United States. And we mustn’t forget that in recent days the newspaper Granma, official organ of the Communist Party, came to the defense of the prelate, discrediting his detractors and their criticisms.
The recent lobbying has a well defined profile and is targeted to political opponents to the embargo — business interests, study groups and universities — among which the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, Harvard University and the City University of New York stand out. Interestingly, people tied to the three sectors have passed through these same institutions, among them: Roberto Veiga, Jaime Ortega, Eusebio Leal, Arturo Lopez Levy and Carlos Saladrigas.
Within the Island we cannot ignore the exclusions coming out of the conference on Cuban migration, held behind closed doors in early May. Catholic activists excluded included Dagoberto Valdés and Oswaldo Payá, as well as the academic Juan Antonio Blanco, currently living in Miami, whom the Cuban government announced it would not allow to enter the country.
In recent days a group of American and Cuban academics, members of official institutions, have argued for the application of more flexible measures to the relations between both nations. In this scenario a new group called COFFEE has appeared, featuring Arturo López Levy, who is seen not only as a part of the Lay Space team, but who is also among those campaigning on behalf of the five Cuban spies convicted in the United States.
At the very least, the synchronization of this front – the Catholic Church, the Cuban government, and the complacent emigration – is suspect.
As Carlos Saladrigas explained at his conference recently held at the Church’s Felix Varela Center in Havana, it is virtually impossible to believe that the Obama administration will change its policy toward the Island in an election year. However, it is clear that this strategy aims to produce changes should the current president be reelected.
As we have discussed in previous articles, the ruinous state of the country and the uncertain situation of Hugo Chávez, among other adverse factors, forces the governing elite into a pressured search to resolve its transmutation, and in particular to guarantee the future of its heirs. The question is: How does Jaime Ortega fit into this plan?
In the editorial published by Lay Space there are several aspects to note. The first we consider important is the political role assigned to the Church, and the affirmation that it has played the most active role in the construction of a global vision for changes in Cuba.
What the editorial flatly ignores is that it is not the Church’s job to build an alternative for the nation, this role belongs to civil society. It is truly surprising, therefore, that this group wants to obscure the work undertaken by so many political actors for years — and their commitment to democratization on the Island — for which they’ve paid with long prison sentences and even their lives. The constant reference to the Church’s own platform as the only solution is, at the least, offensive. But that is not all. How can they say that the opposition has no national project? How can they assert that those who demand an end to the dictatorship lack legitimacy?*
Also curious is the vehemence with which the Cardinal has taken on a task that is beyond him. His role, at best, should be one of mediator, gaining the confidence and respect of the parties in conflict, and not that of a totally biased activist.
The editorial in Lay Space tries to ignore a crucial fact impossible to evade: that we have lived under a dictatorship in our country for 53 years. A dictatorship that has been driven by the same group since that distant 1959, a dictatorship that admits no renewal and that forces its replacement by a democracy.
Another of the manipulative arguments of the editorial is that related to the economic sanctions imposed against the Cuban government by the United States government. Why should we have to repudiate sanctions against a government that shows no interest in bettering the conditions of its citizens and instead spares no resources for its repressive apparatus?
Why should we have to support that the Government further increases its debt, knowing that the money will never be invested in the development of the country?
The issue of nationalism is another curious point. What sovereignty are they speaking of when the current economy has been maintained through external subsidies and we Cubans have been, and continue to be, discriminated against in our own land?
If, as stated in the editorial, at every moment the Cardinal had a worthy attitude toward injustices, why have we not heard his voice again, given the constant human rights violations on the Island? Where was he when three young men were murdered after a judicial farce, or when Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Wilfredo Soto and Wilman Villar died?
Where was his voice of denunciation during the wave of arrests during the Pope’s recent visit to our country? Where is he when they undertake daily despicable acts of repudiation in Cuba today?
We must make it clear to the authors of that text that to speak, without contortions, of the reality that we have lived and are living in Cuba is not hatred. To call those primarily responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans murderers is not prejudice, much less a lack of political intelligence.
Intelligence implies an accurate approach to reality, and the reality in Cuba has been and is harsh. While dialogue should be the highest priority as a path to a solution to our prolonged conflict, the truth cannot be left to one side if we want this dialogue to be credible.
Reconciliation is not incompatible with justice. Quite the opposite: for there to be reconciliation there must be justice. Mind you, not a justice that devolves into a circus, but a justice that respects the human condition of each individual. If the Church hierarchy speaks so lightly, and with a false vision of reconciliation, it should expect nothing but discredit.
The Catholic Church could be called upon to play an important role in the transition; but this will only be possible if it gains the respect and confidence of all those who seek a modern and democratic nation.
*Translator’s note: Following is an excerpt from the Lay Space editorial referring to these points:
This effort by Cardinal Ortega has never represented an uncritical acceptance of the missteps taken by some parties in the national spectrum. Sometimes in public, sometimes in private, he has questioned the political actions of the opposition, inside and outside Cuba, that are usually characterized by criticizing, condemning and trying to annihilate, without contributing any clear and universal projects for the fate of the nation.
Because of its indisputable love for a free and sovereign Cuba, the Church cannot go along with projects that are monitored by — and often coupled with — agendas dictated outside the island, without a clear, critical distancing from the blockade against our motherland.
The entire editorial is available here, in English translation, as posted on CubaNews at Yahoo.
25 May 2012