It is extremely painful to say it, but the boot with which Castro continues to crush Cubans on the island, now has a high-ranking endorsement. Unfortunately, the statements, deeds and gestures of Francis favor the oppression of the Cuban people and a leftward shift in Latin America. In this regard we might be faced with a pontificate marked by confusion and even chaos with disturbing consequences for the political, social and Christian future of the Americas.
My homeland Cuba has just completed 56 years of martyrdom under a nefarious communist revolution. Facing this gigantic drama and tragic anniversary, hardly any voices were heard on the face of the earth expressing outrage about this situation that cries out to heaven. Many governments that rend their garments at the UN year after year condemning the so-called U.S. “embargo” have sent messages greeting the Castro tyrants but not a word has been said about the regime’s implacable “internal embargo” against its 12 million inhabitants of the island-prison.
We are witnessing one of the greatest examples of media sleights-of-hand in history. From the well-deserved image of aggressor, a regime that spearheaded bloody revolutions in Latin America and Africa for decades and continues to spread its tentacles throughout the three Americas has artfully been made to look like a victimized underdog.
There are countless instances of international aid to the Cuban regime that have, and continue to enable it to survive. After the gargantuan financial backing by the Soviet Union, until it collapsed, then by Chavez’s Venezuela, until its present disintegration and finally by Lula-Dilma’s Brazil (now with increasingly empty coffers), somehow Cuba has survived in spite of itself. And now the Americas now witness the unexpected rise of the Francis-Obama “axis,” a sui generis spiritual-political “axis,” which regardless of the intentions of its high-ranking protagonists will provide the repressive apparatus of the Cuban regime with rivers of money and favorable publicity.
On December 19, 2014 two days after Rome, Washington and Havana simultaneously announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. government and the Cuban dictatorship, one of Castro’s Coast Guard ships began ramming a boat fleeing Cuba with 32 people on board, including seven women and two children, to sink the frail craft, presumably in international waters. Those Cubans were simply seeking freedom and trying to break the infamous “internal embargo” that Castro has tyrannically imposed upon its own people.
A survivor, Mrs. Masiel Castilian González, whose husband Leosbel Beoto Diaz drowned, later recounted by phone; “we were screaming, crying for help because the boat was sinking. But they would not listen. They kept ramming our boat. Some people jumped into the water but we stayed there as the boat was sinking.” “They knew there kids on board but still kept ramming us. They did not care.” This was a brutal action by a ruthless regime that feels backed up by powerful allies. A criminal event so seriously damning for the Castro regime would deserve a worldwide outcry of repudiation. Yet it was hardly noticed by the international press, Western governments, “human rights” organizations, and — extremely painful to point out — churchmen who should imitate the Good Shepherd by being ready to give their lives for their flock.
December 31, 2014 was the 56th anniversary of the Communist revolution and police cracked down on opponents simply trying to meet at Revolution Square in Havana. This left little doubt of the real intentions of the Castro’s regime.
Many specialists in the United States have documented very well how the current administration’s almost unconditional approach favors the Cuban regime and harms the cause of freedom on the island. An island whose inhabitants are now even more at the mercy of despotic tyrants. For this, there is harsh criticism for President Obama (cf. “Cuban dissidents blast Obama’s betrayal,” Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, Dec. 29, 2014. “Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved rescue,” Editorial in Spanish and English, Washington Post, December 17, 2014).
However, few analysts point out the most serious and tragic aspect of this agreement; the responsibility that falls upon Pope Francis, its most eminent architect and mediator. On December 17, 2014 Francis welcomed the release of “some detainees” the same day the resumption of diplomatic relations was announced He reaffirmed his mediating role without even hinting at the fact that the Cuban communist dictatorship maintains not just “some” but 12 million “detained” Cubans. This is extremely painful to say, however the boot with which the Castros continue to crush my brethren on the island, now has a very high-ranking endorsement.
We must remember that the Cuban communist “detainees” held by the American Justice system were actually Cuban spies prosecuted and convicted for planning to smuggle explosives into Miami for terrorist acts and their complicity in the murder of four young men who were part of Brothers to the Rescue, an organization that helped Cubans trying to flee Castro’s communist regime. For this reason, the ringleader of the communist “detainees” was given two life sentences. These criminals go free while Cuban citizens remain prisoners to Castro’s communist dictatorship.
Regardless of his intentions, this is not the first time that Francis has taken measures objectively favoring the political and ecclesiastical left in Latin America. For example, he personally attended the World Meeting of Popular Movements held in Rome from October 27 to 29. This was a gathering of 100 revolutionary world leaders, including well-known Latin American professional agitators. The meeting turned out to be a kind of “beatification” of these Marxist-inspired revolutionary figures, the sui generis “blessed” of an “upside down church” contrary to the whole social doctrine of the Church defended by Francis predecessors (cf. “The Pope Greets and Blesses,” L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 28, 2014; “Francis, a publicity ‘beatification’ of revolutionaries, and ‘social upheaval,’” Highlight International, November 2, 2014).
I had the occasion to comment on other events in the same line when Francis overturned the “suspension a divinis” of Nicaraguan priest Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, from the sadly famous Maryknoll congregation. A former Sandinista foreign minister and a leading pro-Castro figure in liberation theology, he had been sanctioned by the Vatican in 1984 for his involvement in the persecution of Nicaraguan Catholics during the first Sandinista government (cf. “Francis, Pro-castroites, and Confusion,” Armando Valladares, August 6, 2014).
Unfortunately, with regard to Cuba and Latin America, these statements, deeds and gestures of Pope Francis directly or indirectly favor the oppression of the Cuban people and a leftward shift of the continent. There is a palpable feeling conveyed from these actions that we are in the presence of a pontificate marked by confusion and even chaos, with disturbing consequences for the political, social and Christian future of the Americas.
As a Catholic and former Cuban political prisoner who spent 22 years in Castro’s dungeons, it is important to reveal that my faith was strengthened by hearing the shouts of young Catholics proclaiming “Viva Cristo Rey, down with communism!” as they faced the firing squad and I must manifest the perplexities, anxieties and inner dramas that the actions of our clergymen and politicians have produced. This is one of the most painful situations that can exist as it touches upon our bonds with the Holy See. However, as I have already said on other occasions, our faith as Catholics must remain intact and even be strengthened by these dilemmas, since in political and diplomatic matters, not even Popes are assisted by infallibility. Catholics are not obliged to accept such words and deeds to the extent they are at variance with the traditional teaching adopted by the Church in relation to communism and socialism.
Armando Valladares, writer, painter and poet, spent 22 years in Cuba’s political prisons. He is the author of the bestseller Against All Hope, which recounts the horror of Castro’s prisons. He was the United States Ambassador to the U. N. Human Rights Commission under the Reagan and Bush administrations. He received the Citizen’s Presidential Medal and the Superior Award of the State Department. He has written numerous articles on ecclesiastical collaboration with Cuban communism and Vatican “Ostpolitik” with Cuba.
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