Monday, October 31, 2011

“The Holy Father has confirmed me as Archbishop of Havana”

Good news for Cuba and for Cubans in and out of the Catholic Church: When Cardinal Jaime Ortega tendered his resignation letter in Rome (having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75), Pope Benedict XVI apparently set it aside and told him to stay where he is, and to continue doing what he is doing.

“I appreciate very much this confidence on the part of the Pope,” Ortega said when he announced the news in Havana last Friday. See EFE (English) and AFP and Notimex (Spanish).

In recent years the contact between the Church and the Cuban government has been different than before. It is occurring at a high level, often between the Cardinal and the President. It is far from resolving longstanding Church requests for parochial schools and broadcast media. But it is treating matters of Cuban domestic policy in a way that has not occurred before, and Fidel’s old practice of largely going over the local Church’s head in favor of direct Fidel-to-Vatican communication seems to have ended.

Whether this is due to chemistry between the interlocutors or necessity on one or both sides, is not known. But it is good for Cuba, and it seems to have been instrumental in the release of 130 prisoners, including those who remained in jail from the 75 arrested in 2003.

About that dialogue, Ortega said it will continue and he stressed the current debate over economic policies, a matter on which Archdiocesan publications are making good contributions. From his remarks Friday: “There is always a dialogue about the role of the Church with its pastoral activities and about the life of the nation under the economic changes planned for Cuba, changes that society is waiting for, that every Cuban hopes for, and that the Church has also encouraged, supported, and wished for.”

While we're talking family history....

A comment on this post that came in over the weekend:

Eso de mentir para embellecer biografias no es nuevo en Miami. Tomese la falsificación del papel de Rafael Diaz Balart en la amnistia de Fidel Castro de 1955.

Sabido es que como el dirigente de la mayoria del partido gubernamental en la Cámara de Representantes, Batista le encomendó a Diaz Balart que lograra la aprobación de la Amnistia de los Delitos Políticos de 1955. Tarea que Diaz Balart cumplió disciplinadamente.

Pero como Fidel Castro posteriormente derrocó a Batista, Diaz Ballart tuvo que posteriormente durante muchos años aguantar las críticas mal intencionadas de sus colegas Batistianos de que el fue el responsable de la liberación de Fidel Castro.

Y el no podía quedarse con esa espinita por dentro. Se aprovechó de que era el más joven de los representantes y espero muchos años a que todos sus colegas o hubiesen fallecido o estuviesen recluidos en asilos de ancianos para falsificar una carta protestando por la amnistia de Fidel Castro y pronosticando sus desmanes futuros.

Toda la prensa de Miami da ese episodio por cierto sin molestarse en comprobar el Diario de Sesiones de la Camara de Representantes de esa época donde se recogen los discursos de Rafael Diaz Balart en favor de la aprobación de dicha medida y no aparece mención ninguna de la supuesta carta profética.

Y luego sus hijos Lincoln y Mario Diaz Balart se aprovecharon de cualquier ocasión para divulgar la falsificación ya que la misma les proporcionaba dividendos políticos.

Al lado de este episodio que la prensa del exilio no ha divulgado, la distorción de la biografía del Senador Marcos Rubio es pecata minuta!


October 29, 2011 12:48 PM

Odds and ends

  • La Jornada reports on some trimming of organizational charts in the Cuban government, and says only one tenth of the planned reduction of one million workers from Cuban government payrolls has been accomplished. The figure I have heard is 127,000.

  • A fond Laura Pollan obituary in the Economist.

  • From the UN General Assembly debate on the resolution condemning the U.S. embargo against Cuba: the U.S. representative’s statement, and the Cuban foreign minister’s response. The resolution carried for the 20th consecutive year, again with only Israel siding with the United States. The Cuban foreign ministry’s report on the effects of the embargo is here.

  • The Cuban children’s theater troupe La Colmenita concluded a somewhat politicized U.S. tour during which they presented a piece dedicated to the Cuban Five; spoke by phone to one of the Cuban Five, and performed at the United Nations while Cuba’s foreign minister was present for a General Assembly debate.

More on Marco

The flap over Senator Marco Rubio has shown us that the Senator has thin skin and ferocious defenders.

More interesting, it shows that exile is a state of mind. The common conception of “exile” involves people being pushed out of their country and barred from return. Many Cubans suffered precisely that. But there are many others, even those born here, who consider themselves exiles because they cannot go or will not go, or will not deal with the conditions the Cuban government imposes. That includes Senator Rubio and his family, which emigrated comfortably in 1956.

I’m sure that Senator Rubio is right that no votes would have changed in his 2010 election had voters known the date of his family’s departure from Cuba. The salient issue, I believe, has to do with the facile assumption that the GOP would win large numbers of Latino votes if it puts Rubio on the ticket next year, for the simple reason that Rubio is Latino.

It is rarely mentioned, but it is true, that Cuban Americans are not viewed with pure affection by other Latinos in the United States. This is for the understandable reason that while U.S. politicians compete to be the biggest supporter of the biggest, baddest fence along the entire southern border, Uncle Sam has given Cuban Americans a special deal – an open door, no-questions-asked immigration policy. The response – “no offense to immigrants,” as Senator Rubio says – is that Cuban Americans are exiles. In his personal case, vis-à-vis Latino voters, that has become a tougher sell.

Some clips:

  • The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, can’t find fault with the original Washington Post story. He notes: “Politicians who stress their biography will inevitably have it picked apart. Mr. Rubio and his staff need to make sure that all the facts of that biography are buttoned up.”

  • The Herald’s advice to Marco Rubio is similar: Welcome to the big leagues.

  • The Washington Post’s ombudsman explains how the Marco Rubio family story came about in the first place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Touchy, touchy, touchy

Now we know two new things about Senator Marco Rubio.

His family emigrated from Cuba when Batista was in power (1956) rather than fleeing it after the communist takeover (1959), as reported by the Washington Post last week.

And he has a very thin skin.

The Post’s article sent him and his operation into a Clintonesque, attack-the-attacker, rapid response blitz that befits a campaigner in full stride rather than a Senator settling into the first year of his first six-year term.

Something like this simply would not do: “It was my error. My parents did immigrate in 1956. They did not suffer being driven into exile, but for them any thoughts of returning to Cuba ended when Castro took over.”

Instead we got this: “If The Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents’ young lives – the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return – is something I will not tolerate.”

Ok, fine, he shouldn’t tolerate that. He might also consider that his sense of outrage is a little inflated. After all, the Liberal Media didn’t write the official bio on his Senate website that said his parents “came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover.” At some point, one wonders if he thought his parents’ story was a little prosaic compared to those who actually fled communism with the clothes on their back.

Rubio has bought himself some trouble on the right; see this commentary at FrumForum. More cutting is this commentary from Cuban-American journalist Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN. He argues that Rubio’s views on policies toward immigrants, which already distance him from many Latinos, lost a central personal justification if his family is considered regular immigrants rather than refugees who fled persecution:

It’s an inspiring American story – a son of political refugees becoming a U.S. Senator. But that’s all it is – a story. It’s not reality.

Unlike mine, Rubio’s family left by choice, not necessity. Unlike mine, Rubio’s family left before Castro even took over.

Rubio says he just “got a few dates wrong.” That’s how he excuses his falsehood about when his parents fled Cuba. With that story, he convinced Americans that he was the son of political refugees, implying that it somehow made him different from the other Hispanics who he attacks regularly – the ones in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama that he and others want to detain, arrest and kick out. How dare they come here looking for work and to better their lot in life? Marco Rubio made us believe he is different from them when he’s not.

Meanwhile, there seem to be two different Rubio accounts of his mother’s return to Cuba in 1961, its purpose and duration – one from 2009 and one from last week (Herald/NPR).


The Washington Post on Rubio’s responses.

Mitt Romney said: “I think the world of Marco Rubio, support him entirely and think that the effort to try to smear him was unfortunate and bogus.”

A Fox interview where Rubio says he would reject the VP nomination in 2012 – a statement that, if it were a lie, would be perfectly acceptable.