By Associated Press
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
HAVANA - Cuba's outspoken Roman Catholic cardinal says the country is in
one of its worst crises in recent times and that its people are
demanding political and economic changes sooner rather than later.
Jaime Ortega, the top Catholic cleric on the island, also called on Cuba
and the United States to restart a meaningful dialogue to normalize
relations, in an interview that appeared yesterday in the church's
official monthly magazine.
Ortega said Cubans are openly talking about the deficiencies of their
socialist system, what he called a Stalinist-style bureaucracy and a
grinding lack of worker productivity.
"Our country finds itself in a very difficult situation," Ortega said in
the interview with Palabra Nueva - New Word. "Certainly the most
difficult times that we have lived in the 21st century."
He said that many differ over how to solve the nation's woes, but that
all agree on one thing, "that the necessary changes are made in Cuba
"I think this feeling has become a form of national consensus, and its
delay is producing impatience and unease among the people," Ortega said.
Cuba is mired in what many consider its worst economic rut since the
severe shortages of the so-called "special period" in the early 1990s
that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The island is dealing with the fallout from three devastating 2008
hurricanes, a downturn in world tourism and the global liquidity crisis.
President Raul Castro and other top Cuban officials have urged people to
work harder and warned that many state subsidies will have to be scaled
back. Cubans make tiny salaries of about $20 a month, but in return the
state provides free or near-free health care, education, housing and