The Rushed Agenda of the 23rd Pastors for Peace Caravan / Mario Barroso

Pastors for Peace 23rd Caravan

Yesterday the XXIII Pastors for Peace Caravan left Cuba. I had no contact with them, I did not lead it, I followed only from a distance the activities they planned, but this year, unlike the previous one, they went to the villages closest to my homeland Taguayabón such as Caibarién, Remedios, Camajuaní and Vueltas. We almost ran into each other, although at Taguayabón in particular they only looked fleetingly through the windows of their buses.

I, who wrote last year that we’d never had them in this area, much less their humanitarian aid, cannot now write the same, at least about them, but their help remained as distant as ever.

It is likely that in passing through these villages it seemed to them that at least here there is no need to share their containers and in any event they share the task of distribution with the Cuban authorities or institutions who approve of them.

If only they knew that prior to their arrival in these parts there was a veritable manhunt, where all the poor and marginalized whose proportion is sadly increasing every day were caught and arrested in a rude and blatant operation until the caravan had passed, thus ensuring that these occasional visitors didn’t get the bad impression that can be seen daily.

The authorities took no account nor were they the least concerned that this caused a scandal, especially in a population as concentrated as that of Vueltas, in which it was particularly noticeable. A real human clean-up was undertaken so that the foreign visitors would see only immaculateness.

What brought them to my area was not the only difference I found in the 23rd Caravan versus the 22nd. This time, for example, the absence of Ellen Bernstein was notable; on previous occasions she led it as a substitute for Lucius, and I was not only surprised by her physical absence, but also the total silence of the mainstream media about her person in contrast to her previous treatment as a heroine, which she was granted last year as leader of the caravan.

It was also extremely notable how the number of those in the caravan was reduced to less than half of those who came last year. This is because, even with all the prophylactic measures taken to counter this by the Cuban authorities, it is increasingly difficult to find sensible people who are not aware that they’re being taken for a ride, that they’re being fooled, except for the young and inexperienced, which made up a considerable number of the total people in the caravan.

They take advantage of this opportunity to have a “revolutionary” adventure, while they find a cheap way to spend a few days of holiday treated like kings, enjoying this or that political act, with some of the benefits that the system prevailing in Cuba grants to them which they deny to most of its own people.

I find the civility the group boasts of contradictory as they are able to get over a hundred tons of humanitarian aid after touring many cities and crossing the Canada-US border and the US-Mexico border, in such a submissive way that they are led like sheep through the Cuban territory.

They don’t have the grace to behave courageously before a democratic government that finally allows them to pass without major difficulties, to come to pay homage to an authoritarian regime that denies most of the rights that they advocate for the Cuban people.

I did not expect to see them in my area, I must admit that those who led them surprised me this time, but it was very clear to me that the government controlled them totally as, however much I looked I couldn’t find a single onle of them at the St Saviour of the World church where one of the most important and renowned Cuban political activists’ funeral was held, nor at the Columbus Cemetery for his massively attended burial.

Oswaldo Paya’s death was undoubtedly the biggest event held in the island during the stay of the XXIII Caravan. The caravan that undoubtedly, if they have internet access which most of the people of Cuba lack, they must have known that this brilliant man undertook his activism inspired by the social doctrine of the Church, the same one which they say their own Pastors for Peace support.

That was why I could not but help tweeting on my my account @ maritovoz and at least had to say: I was hoping Caravan 23 #PastoresPorLaPaz present in Cuba would go to Mass for #OPS but their civic courage left them when they crossed the border.

August 2 2012