Both sport a charming smile and their engaging, gregarious personalities appeal to the populist views of many among their contrasting flocks. Their surge to prominence sprang from a similar agenda, designed in the inner circles of their respective leadership. One is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The other is a recently appointed Cuban Cardinal.

There is indeed a lot in common between Tony Blair, flamboyant leader of the first British Labor government in twenty years, and Jaime Ortega, first Cuban elected to the Curia since the passing of Cardinal Arteaga.

Blair was elected after the Labor Party, savvy of popular realities, decided to espouse temporarily free market economics for political gain. Ortega is the beneficiary of a Vatican policy on Cuba whose most prominent advocate, the French-Basque Cardinal Etchegarary, defined as "pastoral", "not political". Never mind that Etchegaray contradicted himself by denouncing anyone favoring the embargo on Castro, as "criminal".

The papal visit to Cuba this year was the fruit of Etchegaray’s effort. The measure of success for that effort is still the subject of debate. Cardinal Ortega speaking to the press on November 27th claimed dramatic advances for the Catholic faith in Cuba, with over 33,000 baptisms last year, up from less than 6,000 fifteen years ago. His obvious inference is that the Church policy of accommodating Castro should be credited for those advances. The quid pro quo in that bargain seems to be the frequent denunciations of the embargo along with open pro Castro propaganda statements from Church leaders like Cardinals O’Connor, Mahoney and Ortega and the cold shoulder given to the mostly Catholic Cuban exiled leadership by the same Church hierarchy.

The improved Cuban baptismal statistics, if paid for with Castro’s propaganda, echo hollow even among the most dogmatic of Cuban Catholics. Catholics have suffered dearly under Castroism.

Recent events illustrate the pharisaic nature of the policies of Blair and Ortega, like the arrest in London and possible deportation to Spain of former Chilean dictator Pinochet and Ortega’s claim that "no political arrests have been made in Cuba since The Pope’s visit, and that (behavior) should be commended". Ortega said that in Berlin on November 27th.

Pinochet’s predicament, according to British officials is caused by his responsibility in the murders and terrorism perpetrated by his regime. Just under 3,200 people disappeared during Pinochet’s 17-year-long dictatorship.

While we always welcome justice for innocent victims, where is Britian’s righteous claim to innocence in the subject of murder, terrorism, or even genocide? Certainly not in the World War II premeditated fire bombing of Hamburg, when almost 80,000 civilians perished (twice the toll of Coventry and Rotterdam together) in one week of continuous bombing. Nobody in Britian ever denounced it as a wanton act of murder and terrorism which, unlike Hiroshima, failed to shorten the war. The memory of Winston Churchill is certainly not regarded in Britain as that of a terrorist or murderer, but as one of a revered national hero. The same analysis applies to the sinking of the Argentine cruiser "General Belgrano", over 40 miles outside the "Total Exclusion Zone", during the Falkland war of 1982. Thatcher’s government had the "technological choice of either damaging or sinking" the World War II vintage war ship. The "Iron Lady" chose the latter. A nuclear British submarine sank the old vessel with two torpedoes, while in the midst of a South Atlantic storm. It was a "turkey shoot." Three hundred twenty-two Argentinean officers and sailors perished in the blast or were drowned. That sinking had the intended effect of sending to port most of the Argentinean Navy, with the rest confined to the safety of Continental coastal waters and out of combat. Is there anyone in Blair’s government in favor of arresting old "Maggie" on murder and terrorism charges?

Do we remember when the Labor government of the fifties sold strategic materials to China while British soldiers were being killed by the Reds in the Korean Peninsula? Have any past Labor leaders been charged with anything?

Pinochet is no Churchill or Thatcher, as his blind trust of British hospitality proves beyond doubt. But let us remember that he was fighting off violent Castroite radicals, who had no qualms about committing murder. The old General was often their target.

As for the "smiling Cardinal" Ortega, his claim of November 27th received an objective denial when CNN released videos of arrests and beatings of Cuban dissidents in Havana, on the same day. Many others have been arrested for political transgressions since the Pontiff’s visit, and Ortega knows it.

It is easy to determine the "crime" committed by the small crowd in downtown Havana on November 27th. They were not acting violently, nor plotting the overthrow of the regime. They were not inciting rebellion. Certainly not. They did worse.

They gathered in front of a building where a fellow Cuban was being tried by Castro’s "justice" and started chanting quietly: "Our Father which art in Heaven…"


Hugo J. Byrne

Executive Vice President
Frente Baraguá
California Headquarters

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