Fernando Ravsberg*

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, head of Cuba’s Catholic Church and a key figure in efforts to build closer relations with Raul Castro’s government. Photo: Raquel Pérez

HAVANA TIMES — The periodical of Cuba’s Catholic Church, Espacio Laical (“Secular Space”), has criticized a group of Cuban dissidents who, during a tour abroad, called on the United States to maintain the economic embargo it has imposed on the island for over fifty years.

Many Cuban dissidents support Washington’s policy of economic pressure but avoid publicly expressing this within Cuba, where the majority condemns the so-called “U.S. blockade”.

During a recent international tour, however, a number of them have spoken in favor of the embargo. These dissidents include around 20 of the island’s most renowned bloggers, the Ladies in White and the Human Rights Commission.

The editorial published in Cuba’s catholic journal, titled “A Fork on the Road” (“Senderos que se bifurcan”), criticizes these dissidents because they “insist on asking major centers of power around the world to destabilize the Cuban government, and to take measures that can do profound harm to the people of Cuba.”

The aim of the embargo, which is to “deprive Cuba of money and supplies, to reduce its financial resources and real wages, cause hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.” (1), had been established in official U.S. government documents as early as the 1960s.

In view of this, it is understandable that the Cuban Catholic Church and Vatican should oppose these measures, whose severe social costs are evident. It is a posture the Church has maintained, in fact, since the times before it established closer relations with the Cuban government.

The proposal advanced by the Catholics is complicated, because it calls for a space where Cubans with different conceptions of patriotism can debate their positions. Reaching an agreement regarding who fits into this category, and who are to be excluded from it, will not be an easy task.

Espacio Laical acknowledges that “Cuba has to change in many ways” and expresses its gratitude towards individuals and institutions committed to such change, but adds that “the key figures behind these changes cannot be the centers of power of certain powerful and influential countries.”

The periodical affirms that “the majority of Cuban patriots” appeal to those who wish to help Cuba not to become “conspirators who are willing to lead us down uncertain roads, which have not been traced by the express will of the people.”

In addition to expressing support for the US embargo, Cuban dissidents have requested additional material aid. Relations between the United States and the island’s dissidents, bloggers and human rights organizations would appear tainted by the US $20 million which Washington destines to financing their activities every year.

In a confidential cable published by Wikileaks (cable # 202438, sent on April 15, 2009), the U.S. diplomatic chief in Cuba, Jonathan Farrar, acknowledged that Cuban dissidents “were more concerned about getting money than about taking their proposals to broader sectors of Cuban society.”

The Church also appears to have lost faith in the opposition. In recent years, it has built tighter links with the Cuban government, gained spaces for its evangelization work and promoted measures of immense social impact, such as securing the release of all political prisoners and 3,000 common inmates.

In a way, Cardinal Jaime Ortega has become a kind of privileged interlocutor of President Raul Castro, and the two are building relations of trust which are putting behind decades of mutual misunderstanding and aggression.

It is within the context of these relations that Espacio Laical calls for greater understanding “between Cubans with different conceptions of patriotism”, so that others do not “manage to impose a new model which responds to partial interests or, worse, to hijack the country’s destiny.”

The majority of Cubans believe that the embargo is responsible for many of the economic difficulties they have had to live with. Photo: Raquel Perez

The Church periodical thinks it possible that “together, and with the people’s active participation, we can fashion a new social model for Cuba, with the aim of adjusting it to the nation’s pressing demands, a model that is the true expression of the general will.”

The proposal advanced by the Catholics is complicated, because it calls for a space where Cubans with different conceptions of patriotism can debate their positions. Reaching an agreement regarding who fits into this category, and who are to be excluded from it, will not be an easy task.

Deciding what criteria define a “patriot” will be a difficult process indeed, but it seems likely that the Cuban Catholic Church and government already agree on one thing: that public condemnation of the US economic embargo on Cuba is one of these criteria.

(1) Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958 – 1960, Volume VI, Cuba, United States Government Printing Office, Washington 1991, p. 885

(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original posted in Spanish by BBC Mundo.

80 thoughts on “The Cuba Embargo: A Fork on the Road

  • June 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I wholly agree with you. The simplistic view that Cuba was better before Castro fails to define it in relative terms. Yes, Cuba was doing better before the debacle of the Castro regime, but Cuba was a country that almost every year faced 9 moths of 30% unemployment because our economy was sugar-centric. The graft, political abuse and domestic gangsterism was also considerable. No, not just the US imported mafia, I am speaking of the Policarpos and the Colorados and their gangs, never mind the political and electoral corruption. Not to mention the “instructive guidance” to our policies from the US Embassy. Indeed, some of us lived very well, both in relative and absolute terms. However the gaping wound of lack of political and social discipline laid opened for years aided and abetted by dominant and powerful US corporate concerns constituted the fertile ground for the Castro infection to set in. Then we left. thinking and hoping that the US would pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us. We left thereby rendering the regime opposition free. Would many of us had been killed, and tortured? Yes, but it was our problem an NO ONE ELSE’S!!! We once were a Spanish colony, then American colony, then a Soviet colony. We do not need to become a Miami colony. We should opine AFTER the dissidents and the intellectuals who stayed and have faced this beast for 53 years do. We forfeited our right of primoginiture when we hot footed it out of there and passed the baton to the CIA. Cuba is a Cuban issue full stop.

    The Embargo has been a resounding failure as a policy. But it is one that is useful to both the Cuban regime and the “cafe con leche” politicos in Miami. For the Cuban regime it provides the ubiquitous excuse/explanation for their dismal failures. The Miami Troika uses it as a political soap box for electoral purposes – all of which is highlighted every four years by the candiidates “de rigour” visit to Little Havana to proclaim that he would be much harsher on Fidel than his opponent then disappearing until the next cycle.

    It’s all a charade with 11 million Cubans in Cuba having no say so and facing horrible repression and privations. A play with 29 Florida electoral votes as its price of admission.

  • May 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    You are desperate as hell aren’t you, Dan Christensen.
    Your lies were exposed and I did do the opposite of confirming your lies. I exposed them as have done others here.
    The links that I and others have posted speak for themselves. Your lies won’t change anything.

  • May 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    The only one that is posting propaganda that harms the Cuban people are you, Dan Christensen.
    Supporting the human rights abuses and propagating the lies of the Castro dictatorship is being anti-Cuban.
    The CIA certainly doesn’t back you, Dan Christensen. I am quite sure they think you are an idiot like I do.
    I post facts that I support with links to varrious sources. you post lies, insults, innuendo and paranoid crap. you do that over and over again in the desperate hope that through repetition something of your lies will stick in the mind of the uninformed.
    All those that expose you as the liar you are you call by the same name as if only one person could expose your lies. Well I have news for you, Dan Christensen, lots of people can very easily expose your lies by just doing a quick search online.

  • May 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Bottom line: No one outside of your tiny circle of fanatical Cuba haters — not even the CIA! — is buying into YOUR bottom line. Deal with it, Paul.

  • May 22, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Did you ever write to the CIA as I recommended with your findings about these supposed “inconsistencies” of yours? If so, were they at least able to contain their laughter?

  • May 22, 2013 at 8:51 am

    CL wrote: “The CIA doesn’t back you up Dan Christensen. Not in any way. The make no statement on the quality of the data reported by international organizations.”

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t want it to get out that I was backed by the CIA!

    Also, there are literally mega-bytes of the worst anti-Cuban propaganda on web repeating your outrageous claims here, but for some reason it doesn’t rate so much as an asterisk at the CIA website. Why do you suppose that it is, Paul? The simplest explanation, of course, is that these claims are just not credible. Deal with it.

  • May 22, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for confirming that you cannot cite any warnings from the CDC, the Canadian (or British) government advising tourists to avoid travel to Cuba. Your only link mentions the British embassy recommending “sensible precautions” and seeking medical attention for cases of diarrhea — stuff you should always do when travelling in the tropics.

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