Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Priest alleges that foreign hurricane aid to Cuba is not reaching the people

Posted on Tuesday, 06.25.13

Priest alleges that foreign hurricane aid to Cuba is not reaching the

Outspoken Cuban priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez alleged that foreign aid
sent to his native Santiago de Cuba province after Hurricane Sandy last
year was diverted to government, military and tourism facilities but
denied to private homes.

"The situation in Santiago is very grave" because many of the more than
100,000 homes damaged by the storm have not been repaired, Rodriguez
told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday. "The aid has not reached the people."

Rodriguez first made the allegations in a public letter to the head of
the Communist Party in the province, Lázaro Expósito, urging him to
crack down on the diversion of the aid and "the corruption that
surrounds you."

"We have watched with astonishment the theft of the assistance that so
many countries sent to our people," he wrote, "how that aid was sold …
at inflated prices in flagrant violation of the intentions of the donors."

"We have watched with astonishment as government or armed forces
installations were repaired in record time, while the people remain
without roofs," he wrote in the letter, dated June 16.

Warning of possible civil unrest, he added, "We are witnesses to the
people's frustrations, to their desperation and impotence, to a …
threatening silence that makes us think that it could explode at any
time with justified and uncontrollable fury."

Rodriguez told El Nuevo that foreign diplomats who visited him after
Sandy noted "a very high degree of exasperation" in the city of Santiago
de Cuba, due to host the July 26 celebrations this year that mark the
start of the Castro revolution.

Sandy pummeled eastern Cuba in October, killing 11 people and causing $2
billion in damages. Many of the homes belonging to 100,000 families
remain without roofs or the families are jammed into the one or two
rooms that have roofs, Rodriguez said.

The priest, whose own church and parish house in the city of Santiago
lost parts of their roofs, said he was offered black market zinc roof
sheets roughly six-by-three feet at 300 pesos per piece, compared to 250
pesos for nine-by-six pieces on the legal market.

Several protestant pastors in eastern Cuba have complained that
authorities seized assistance they were trying to distribute to Sandy's
victims, according to a U.S. State Department report on religious
freedom around the world issued last month.

Rodriguez, who has long complained that the Catholic church's hierarchy
has been too meek in its relations with the communist government, also
noted in his letter to Expósito that it should have been written by
someone higher than a simple priest.

"I am aware that, given the hierarchical structure of the church, I am
not the one who should be taking this action, but rather my bishop,
Mons. Dionisio Garcia, to whom I have suggested several times that he
should do this," the priest wrote.

Rodriguez also told El Nuevo during a lengthy interview that the church
hierarchy has been "much more conservative now. When the times were much
more difficult, it was more daring."

He announced in June that Garcia had asked him to hand over his parish
and work on a book on Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patron saint. Garcia
did not offer a new parish, so the priest obtained an assignment in the
dioceses of Cienfuegos.

Rodriguez said he was in Miami at the start of a two-month trip that
will take him to Brazil for Pope Francis's visit, as well as to Spain,
Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and perhaps Costa Rica.

The priest wrote a public letter to Fidel Castro in 1994 blaming him for
Cuba's chaotic economy, asking for fair elections and urging him to open
a dialogue with dissidents and exiles. He followed up in 2009 with an
open letter to Castro's brother and successor, Raúl Castro, urging
changes in the island's Soviet-styled politics as well as the economy.

He received the "Tolerance Plus" last year awarded by three Cuban
dissident groups.

Source: "Priest alleges that foreign hurricane aid to Cuba is not
reaching the people - Cuba -" -

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