Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Post-Castro Cuba needs a democracy, not a theocracy

Post-Castro Cuba needs a democracy, not a theocracy
Dissidents, not cardinal, would make better leaders
By Carlos M.N. Eire
10:41 a.m. EDT, August 15, 2011

Last month, USA Today published an essay by Mark Pinsky under the
headline, "Could Catholic leader usher in a new Cuba?" The opinion
column proposed that the best possible successor to the Castro brothers
is Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino.

Such speculation, which has been sporadically offered in the past, is
not only grossly disconnected from reality, but also condescending and

First and foremost, one must contend with the fact that none of the
ruthless old generals who currently run Cuba would ever allow a bishop
any real leadership role, even after the Castro brothers are gone from
the scene. Moreover, why should anyone assume that Cardinal Ortega will
foment real political change or be trusted by all segments of society?
Thus far, he has done nothing to arouse such hopes.

Cardinal Ortega is no more fit to lead the Cuban people than any
columnist is to suggest what will be best for post-Castro Cuba. In
essence, what is offered here seems to envision another undemocratic and
authoritarian transfer of power in Cuba, with Cardinal Ortega as an
enlightened despot of sorts, or a Caribbean Merlin. Even worse, there
are many other emerging leaders in Cuba who have already proven their
commitment to genuine democratic reform: dissidents such as Oscar Elias
Biscet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Guillermo Fariñas, Oswaldo Payá and
countless others, all of whom risk life and limb every day for merely
disagreeing with the military junta that runs our island.
Raw Video: Smimming bulldog

Although Cardinal Ortega may seem "charming" and "amiable" to some, the
cold, hard truth is that His Eminence supports the political oppression
of the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that this is the reason he
is "trusted" by the authorities. Last year, the cardinal showed his true
colors by orchestrating the banishment from Cuba of dozens of political
prisoners, and by lobbying in Brussels and Washington, D.C. on behalf of
the Castro regime. Moreover, when 165 Cuban dissidents justly complained
about the cardinal's behavior to Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ortega
condemned them all. And at the very same time, he posted a pastoral
letter on his website in which he declared that anyone who was intent on
toppling the current regime should have no part in determining the
future of Cuba.

In addition, the cardinal has said that "the Cuban people's primary
concern is less with political liberalization than with a pressing need
for economic revival." Nothing could be further from the truth or more
revealing of the cardinal's ultimate loyalties. This is the "big lie"
that Raul Castro and his cronies parrot incessantly, a groupthink
falsehood they would love for the outside world to believe. Political
liberalization and economic revival go hand in hand, not just in theory,
but in practice, and most Cubans on the island are painfully aware of
this fact, no matter how closely the cardinal sticks to the script
handed to him by the authorities.

Finally, the op-ed portrayed the Cuban exile community as "intractable
opponents of the regime, some of whom still expect to fly into Havana
and take over after the Castros." This is the same vitriolic nonsense
that the rulers of Castrolandia have been spewing for 52 years. We who
left — and those who oppose the regime from within — are always called
"intractable," "unreasonable" or worse. We are also imagined as nothing
but potential dictators and exploiters, ever itching to take over Cuba
and stick it to those who remained behind, including our own relatives.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

We who oppose the Castro regime are no more "intractable" than any
American or European regarding human rights in their own countries. We
are also no more unreasonable than any people who have been robbed of
what was rightfully theirs, and certainly no less justified in decrying

Besides, what these critics fail to see, blinded as they seem to be by
Castroite propaganda — or perhaps by the sentiment that we Cubans are
inferior and undeserving of genuine justice — is that we "intractable"
exiles and dissidents do not hanker for retribution or power. What
drives us to oppose the Castro regime at every turn is its unending,
intolerable injustice. Much like someone who has to watch loved ones
tortured and raped day after day, without an end in sight, we cannot
"let go" or "forget."

As long as our brethren are still enslaved, denied the most basic human
rights, we have to oppose the unending wrong. And what drives us to the
edge of despair, day after bitter day, is the fact that our oppressed
brethren deserve a much better leader than Cardinal Ortega, or the
opinions of so-called "experts" who deign to fathom what is best for Cuba.

Carlos M. N. Eire is the T. Lawrason Riggs professor of history and
religious studies at Yale University. He is the author of "Waiting for
Snow in Havana," which won the National Book Award in 2003.


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