By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Born in Miami, the “Solidarity between brothers and sisters” campaign managed to work a miracle. It transported food and personal hygiene items to the international Mariel port, to the west of Havana, destined for 15,000 Cuban families. The government is now facing the challenge of closing its doors or allowing the different religious organizations to distribute this humanitarian aid.
So far there’s only silence from Plaza de la Revolucion in response to a project that sidesteps the State’s power. However, the Council of Christian Churches in Cuba (CIC), took it upon themselves to speak for the Cuban people, God and Fidel Castro. https://consejodeiglesiasdecuba.org/
It was precisely on August 13th, the 94th anniversary of the Comandante’s birthday, that Reverend Antonio Santana, CIC president, felt the need to preach.
“As a Man of God, I feel the need to speak out in the face of an event that is not in keeping with what our country needs.”
Joel Ortega Dopico, the Executive Secretary of the above-mentioned religious association, issued a similar statement. “We believe that the campaign launched by Rosa Maria Paya, from the Cuba Decide project, is an insult to the Cuban people and churches.”
The statement comes four days after Rosa Maria Paya confirmed this news of the aid reaching Cuba, after donations were collected in May. The daughter of Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Paya sounded the following alert.
“We are warning Cuban Customs and its director, Cordobes Reyes, to fulfill its obligation of handing over these containers to the churches. They are the legal owners of this freight, so it can be distributed among families most in need.”
The government’s silence contrasts with the cry from the Council of Christian Churches, whose representatives declare the aid is not needed.
“Cuba doesn’t need aid from those who serve a government [USA] which has wanted to create humanitarian crises with a political and economic agenda for 60 years. Far from seeking dialogue and respect and abiding by international laws, it violates them and holds no regard for diplomatic norms. It turns a deaf ear to the UN, year after year, when nearly all countries approve the Cuban resolution: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”
This statement seems to be copied straight from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). Just like any minister, explaining the system of government they represent, the reformed Presbyterian Church pastor explains to us in another paragraph:
“In our country, civil society, churches and the State interact in harmony, each of them taking on its particular role.”
The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) controls the approved religious institutions which are directly attended to and supervised by its Central Committee’s Office of Religious Affairs.
Regarding the products in port warehouses, the almost unanimous opinion on social media is that this aid should reach its beneficiaries. In the only space for debate outside of government censorship trans actress and TV host Kiriam Gutierrez has spoken out to the CIC’s reverends.
“These five containers of aid were collected by Cubans and US citizens. There, our brothers and sisters, parents, relatives and friends made donations. I need this aid, my mother needs the diapers. Likewise, the medicines that are only found in international drugstores in dollars at exorbitant prices. My mother and I need the free food since you can only buy food in US dollars right now, and I don’t have any.”
Meanwhile, Rosa Maria Paya was cutting and straight to the point. She clarified about the destiny of the humanitarian aid. “The President and Secretary of the Council of Churches DO NOT have to reject anything because this Humanitarian Aid WAS NOT sent to them.”
In Santiago de Cuba, Alain Toledano, of the Sendas de Justicia movement, demonstrates there are other churches who aren’t standing by the Council’s statement.
“We have to let the world know, that this aid belongs to the Cuban people, it doesn’t belong to the State. We won’t accept any trap to try and justify a seizure of what the Cuban people need so desperately today.”
When asked about how feasible it would be to distribute this aid, Toledano said the following,
“We have everything organized on our part: personnel, drop off places, teams lined up to distribute. There is a list which testifies that over 15,000 people or families have asked for aid, we know who they are, their names. We have a well-organized operation, and we would only serve as a bridge, as a channel so that these blessings reach the many families. These include believers and non-believers, because this aid doesn’t discriminate, it’s for the Cuban people.”
In Miami, donors are outraged because the donation drive went on for some weeks, directly and publicly. It took place in the parking lot in front of the Mana Wynwood Convention Center’s warehouses in North Miami, without a single political slogan. The only phrase visible was Solidaridad entre hermanos (Solidarity between brothers/sisters).
At 70 years old, Nelson Ruiz gave us a photo after buying the popular bath soap “Irish Spring”, along with other similar items.
He said: “Soap cleans the body, detergent cleans clothes and plates; these are basic human needs, there isn’t any political statement in these containers. We have to ask what the leaders in my country are so ticked off about.”
“Is it that Cubans are coming together everywhere, without asking them for permission, after they have had us in shackles for 61 years?”
“Invoking the blockade is ridiculous because we are sending our aid from the US freely,” an Internet user commented. He ends with: “we are in the shadow of a crisis that has brought the entire world to a standstill.”