Days after Chilean Catholic bishops urged for a national reconciliation on the fortieth anniversary of the military coup d’état that ousted President Salvador Allende, their Cuban counterparts issued their own call for unity.
A letter issued by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (CCBC) to reporters earlier today advocated for dialogue between Cubans of differing opinions.
“The geographic proximity and family ties between the two peoples are unavoidable realities that should be taken into account in order to encourage an inclusive policy, through respect for differences”, read part of the CCBC’s communiqué that was entitled “Hope Does Not Disappoint.”
The letter included quoted remarks made by Pope John Paul II during a 1998 visit to support the CCBC’s view against the decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba.
“The forced isolation impacts the population indiscriminately … the measures imposed from outside on the country are unjust and ethically unacceptable,” the letter quoted the late pontiff as stating.
The document praised economic reforms enacted under President Raul Castro but noted that more needs to be done to remedy problems such as the low salaries of professional and government workers in health and education.
The group also criticized the lack of political liberalization that would allow for greater freedom of expression on the island.
“Cuba is called upon to be a plural society … there must be a right to diversity in terms of thought, creativity and the search for truth,” the letter mentioned.
CCBC secretary Jose Felix Perez said that copies of the letter to government authorities though an official response was not immediately provided.
In recent years, the Cuban Catholic Church has received greater leeway from the government to engage in public activities and also receive occasional coverage by the state media. Church officials also brokered with the government a deal that allowed over one hundred political prisoners to be freed in 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, the CCBC’s letter was their strongest statement for change on the island since their previous pastoral letter was issued twenty years ago. Moreover, the head of the CCBC (Havana Archbishop Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino) has denounced human rights abuses and repression on the island during previous meetings with Castro.
During his visit to Cuba last year, former Pope Benedict claimed that all Cubans should be able to share in “forging a society of wide horizons, renewed and reconciled” while also critiquing the embargo on the island.
The CCBC’s letter comes on the heels of an apparent government rebuke against Cuban musician Robertico Carcassés for his remarks at a concert last Thursday that was dedicated to four imprisoned Cuban spies:
While performing the song "Cubanos por el mundo," dedicated to Cubans "here and there," Carcassés, 41, took to the microphone. He improvised lyrics calling for the release of the four prisoners, "and a lot more," including presidential elections by direct vote, equal rights for all Cubans on the island regardless of their political opinions, and an end to the U.S. embargo and "[Cuba’s] auto-embargo."
Video Source– YouTube via AFP (In this 2012 video “Cuban Catholics flocked to churches on Good Friday, which was declared a holiday in the communist-ruled nation for the first time following a request from Pope Benedict XVI during his recent visit”.)
According to Diario de Cuba, Interactivo’s Facebook page published a message Friday saying that Carcassés and his bandmates were called to the Cuban Music Institute and told that Carcassés would not be allowed to perform on the island for an indefinite period of time. The group announced that two upcoming shows were canceled "due to a decision by authorities." That message was later erased from Facebook, the website reported.
Online Sources – The Latin Americanist; Billboard; ABC News; BBC News; euronews