Saturday, May 26, 2012

Response to Catholic Church’s Editorial in Lay Space: “Commitment to the Truth” / Estado de Sats

Response to Catholic Church's Editorial in Lay Space: "Commitment to the
Truth" / Estado de Sats
Alexis Jardines, Antonio Rodiles, Estado de Sats / State of Sats,
Translator: Unstated

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

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

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

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