“We believe in God, but for the Pope’s message of faith and hope for the Cuban people to become a reality, first of all, Castro and his regime have to go.” This was the consensus recorded in a survey conducted in many churches throughout Cuba by a pro-democracy organization after the first anniversary of the pope’s visit.

The pro-democracy organization and the reporter’s name remain anonymous due to Cuba’s laws against freedom of expression. Castro dictated the law the same day that Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Priests from Canada, Latin America and US were celebrating their Inter-American Bishops’ Conference in Havana. The Church representatives were smiling, shaking hands and sitting at the table listening to the tyrant speak during a four-hour meeting in the Palace of the Revolution - the former Presidential Palace built in the 1920s.

On January 31, before the Inter-American Bishops’ Conference in Havana, held for February 14-16, former political prisoner and former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Armando Valladares, wrote an article begging the church representatives to condemn Castro’s embargo against its own people. Many Cuban exiles in the US and abroad, in solidarity with Valladares, sent messages to the church representatives attending the conference in Havana. But as Valladares later stated, they “coldly ignored our pleas.”

However, alleging their Christian “spirit of solidarity,” they did condemn “the grave consequences of the economic embargo against Cuba.” Valladares, in a follow-up article published on February 26 in Diario Las Americas, questioned, “Spirit of solidarity, with whom? They had the opportunity to express their spirit of solidarity with the Cuban people by condemning Castro’s internal blockade, but they remained silent.” Valladares added that they did not show solidarity with the messages they received from Cuban families abroad begging them to condemn the real cause of the hardship of the Cuban people, which is not the US embargo.

A reporter from Cuba says that a year after the pope’s visit, the evidence proves that Castro’s regime effectively killed his Holiness’ message of hope directed to the Cuban people. Castro’s intransigence maintains the prohibition against the development of the civic society. Castro has left intact and even is increasing the repression of all types of political and social opening.

Even the pope acknowledged before his last trip to Mexico that there have been no changes in Cuba.

A few months prior to the pope’s visit in 1998, for cosmetic reasons, there was some space for the opposition. After the pope’s visit some political prisoners were released, but two months later the repression and jailing increased, crushing the people’s hopes and dreams.

“For the Catholic Church nothing changed,” the reporter says, “even though the optimists claim the opposite. The church is still excluded from radio, television and the press. I ask myself, what have we gained from the pope’s visit? Many say, ‘only his message of faith and hope, but that was it.’ The main beneficiary was Castro by gaining legitimacy and a full year manipulating the social aspect of the Catholic Church doctrine to satisfy his interests.”

After the pope’s visit, time has shown once again who Castro really is. Even though the world has opened to Cuba, following the pope’s advice, Castro is not willing to open to the world and still swimming against the tide. The human rights and economic situation in Cuba is getting worse by the minute. Everything that the international community is trying to do – including the Church - to accommodate and to cooperate with Castro with the hope that he will eventually follow the democratic path is a failure as much as the same has failed to bring democracy to China or Vietnam. They must face reality and the true nature of Castro and his obsolete communist regime.

The Church or anyone who honestly cares about the wellbeing of the Cuban people and want to save what is left of the island, must ask for the unconditional resignation of Castro and his thugs. They should acknowledge that the embargo Castro placed against his own people for 40 years as the cause for the hardship. Otherwise they should stop mingling in Cuban affairs. They are not helping the cause of democracy; they are helping the perpetuation of Castro in detriment to the Cuban people.

The survey results of Catholic Cubans living in Cuba quoted at the beginning of this article, shows that the only way out is for Castro and his regime to go. The world must show some sensitivity and real spirit of solidarity with the oppressed victims of the tragedy. Forty years of tyranny is more than enough.


Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of James Sutton

Agustín Blázquez, Producer/Director of documentary COVERING CUBA
ABIP 1999

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