Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dissident Cuban pastor says change is inevitable

Posted on Tuesday, 09.24.13

Dissident Cuban pastor says change is inevitable

Cuban pastor and dissident blogger Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, making
his first visit to the United States, said Monday that the communist
elites that led the economy to ruin cannot be allowed now to project
themselves as its capitalist saviors.

"The transition is inevitable. The question is, who will do it and who
will benefit from it," the outspoken Baptist pastor said during a visit
to El Nuevo Herald with his wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, also a blogger.

"The same communist elite that caused all the trouble, that threw away
all the resources, now wants to be the capitalist elite, while the
people continue under the same suffering," Lleonart said. "They are the
same people and the same (communist) party."

Pro-democracy and civil society groups on the island of 11 million
people are stepping up their activism to "fill the spaces being
abandoned by the government" and have forced the government to
reluctantly undertake some reforms it did not favor, he added.

The 38-year-old pastor of a Baptist church with about 100 members in
Taguayabon, a town of 4,000 in Villa Clara province, has become known in
recent years for his sharp-edged criticisms of the Raúl Castro
government in his blog and tweets.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British organization that works for
religious freedom, financed his trip to Washington earlier this month to
meet with the Congressional Caucus on Religious Freedom and aides to
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl,., and Barbara Boxer, D-Ca.

The British group reported this spring that violations of religious
freedoms in Cuba in the previous 15 months had spiked harshly,
especially as the government jailed hundreds of democracy activists to
keep them away from visiting Pope Benedict XVI's masses.

Lleonart said he has preached in two Baptist church in South Florida
since arriving in Miami last week and wants to preach in as many as will
ask him, including some in Texas and North Carolina, before the couple
returns to Cuba around December.

The pastor added that some people in Miami surprised him by keeping
their distance from him, apparently fearing that any contact with a
dissident would trigger Cuba government reprisals against them, such as
denials of permission to travel to the island.

Such concerns did not bother Lleonart, who has been detained five times
since 2008, created the blog Cubano Confesante — Cuban Believer — in
2010 and has repeatedly criticized the lack of religious freedom in
Cuba, officially atheist from 1962 to 1992.

He also teaches at the seminary linked to the La Trinidad Baptist
Church, in the provincial capital of Santa Clara, and the Baptist
convention of Western Cuba, one of four umbrella Baptist organizations
on the island.

"The danger for Cuba today is that if they (the ruling elites) get a
little oxygen, what kind of attitude are they going to take on the Cuban
people," he asked.

"These are the same people and the same party that are going to try to
keep the transition from being like the ones in East Germany and Poland,
and make it more like the Russian one, what's being called 'Putinismo,'"
he said.

But Lleonart added that change in Cuba is inevitable as the central
government's power weakens, and told one anecdote that he said reflects
how even long-time government supporters and veterans of Cuba's wars in
Africa are feeling "abandoned."

Neighbors who have been reporting his activities to the State Security
police for many years could not believe that he was being allowed to
travel abroad, the pastor said, and predicted that authorities would
stop him at the airport.

Source: "Dissident Cuban pastor says change is inevitable - Cuba -
MiamiHerald.com" -

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