Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Off the deep end

Usually, the rap against the Catholic Church in Cuba is that it lacks courage, and doesn’t use its position to push for change on fundamental issues such as human rights.

Now, the Church is engaged in a dialogue with the government precisely about human rights issues. And the Cuban government has recognized in its own media that this dialogue, about those issues, is taking place.

Still, it’s not enough. The shots are coming from Oswaldo Paya in Cuba, and from Mauricio Claver-Carone in Washington.

The message is simple: Do it my way or don’t do it at all.

To be sure, the results of the dialogue so far are modest – one political prisoner freed, about a dozen moved to jails nearer their homes and families, and lots of talk of more moves ahead. (Yoani Sanchez is reporting that Darsi Ferrer, jailed last year and finally tried today, is home, and AP is reporting the same.)

If you want to read the darkest possible perspective on these talks, check this out from French author Bertrand de la Grange, who sees pure opportunism. He quotes Oswaldo Paya saying that the Church should not “accept the role of being sole interlocutors with the government.” Which means, in effect, that if the dissidents can’t be present, then the Church should not proceed to talk about prisoners of conscience. “Cubans should not be left as spectators” to these talks, Paya says, as if Cuba’s clergy are not themselves Cuban.

I’m all for the Cuban government meeting with Cuban citizens of every stripe, dissidents included. But are Cubans who are not dissidents – clergy or any others – to hold back from talks on any topic if the dissidents aren’t included? Can Paya possibly mean that?

Closer to home, our friend Mauricio derides what he calls the Church’s “exclusionary tactics” because it is meeting with authorities without dissidents present.

He argues that instead of facilitating a political dialogue between the Castro regime and the Cuban people, the Church has decided to “take the place of dissidents.”

Frankly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, for – repression aside – both the Castro regime and the Catholic Church are essentially non-democratic, non-representative entities,” he writes.



Anonymous said...

Is there fear that if they are not included they will be passed by? Surprising perspective if true, one can see that fear coming from the Miami hard-right side, but didn't think it might have the same resonance among certain dissidents. It should come down to results, not who controls the rules.

Inès said...

Amazing? Hardly.

Mr. Claver-Carone just stated the obvious: the Catholic Church is an authoritarian, hierarchical institution.

Mr. de la Grange is right on target: the Church is looking for future political advantages for themselves. Soon the Church will send their ideological-political bill to the Castros, and much worse, to the Cuban nation, present & future.

What does the Church want? Clearly, dilution, or even a de facto (if not necessarily constitutional) end of the Church-State separation.

Just read the Vatican chancellor Mamberti´s keynote speech to the Havana Catholic gathering last week. He unveiled their game.

A new, democratic Cuban Republic-- truly secular and free of all enforced, totalitarian ideologies (religious or otherwise)--might be mortgaged before birth by the Church-Castros collusion.

John McAuliff said...

Oswaldo Paya is playing an odd role, suggesting that if he is not leading the parade it should not be marching.

It was surprising to not see his name among the 74 signers of the letter in support of legislation to end travel restrictions. Then he sought to put himself above the dueling dissident letters and turn the focus against the Cuban government by calling for a united campaign against exit visas.

The end of Cuba's travel restrictions has already been raised by leading personalities in official and semi-official positions, including by Silvio Rodriguez and at the last UNEAC conference. Among the dissidents Yoani Sanchez has made it her signature issue.

As the 74 signers recognized, the freedom of Cubans to travel cannot be separated in principle or in practice from the freedom of Americans to travel.

Large numbers of Americans visiting Cuba freely will diminishing the confrontational atmosphere between the countries and make it easier for Cuba to lower its guard and grant the same freedom to travel to its own people.

If nothing else, the example of reform in US travel policy will create insurmountable mainstream pressure for that to happen in Cuba as well

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Anonymous said...

hard to understand how one goes from dialogue to the imposition of a theocratic state. it is beyond a leap of logic, but appears to be a misguided attempt to deflect and diminish honest efforts.