Church Leaders Appeal for Dialogue in Cuba

‘Not only do we see that situations get worse, but we are also moving towards a rigidity’

Church Leaders
© Fides

Leaders of the Church in Cuba are appealing for dialogue in Cuba as demonstrations continue and fear of government retaliation grows.

“At this moment, as Pastors, we are concerned that the response to these requests is immobility that contributes to giving continuity to the problems, without solving them.

“Not only do we see that situations get worse, but we are also moving towards a rigidity and hardening of positions that could generate negative responses, with unpredictable consequences, that would harm us all”: these are the words of the Cuban Bishops, sent to Fides, after the protests of the population on Sunday, July 11, caused by the tragic social and economic situation in which the country lives without the authorities reacting. The Bishops’ text continues: “A positive solution is not reached with impositions, nor by invoking confrontation, but when mutual listening is exercised, common agreements are sought and concrete and tangible steps are taken that contribute, with the help of all Cubans without exclusions, to build the homeland ‘with everyone and for the good of all’. This is the country we want”.

The street demonstrations that took place on Sunday, July 11 and Monday, July 12 in the main cities of the country, with clashes with the police and numerous arrests, were caused by the exasperation of the people, who decided to protest the difficulties in finding food, due to the rise in prices, the worsening of the pandemic and the lack of democracy. The main news agencies report that for the Cuban government led by Miguel Diaz Canel, it is a US move to “destabilize” the island. The local Church, through the Bishops’ Conference, understands the situation and indicates the responsibilities of the government, which has tried to take measures to alleviate these difficulties, however, “people have the right to express their needs, desires and hopes and, at the same time, to publicly express how some measures taken are hitting them hard”.

In the conclusion of the statement, the Bishops cite Pope Francis recalled that “crises are not overcome by confrontation, but by seeking understanding”, and therefore admonish: “violence generates violence, today’s aggression opens wounds and feeds future resentments that later will take a long time to overcome”. Therefore, they invite everyone “not to favor the crisis situation, but with serenity of mind and goodwill, to exercise listening, understanding and an attitude of tolerance, which takes into account and respects the other, to seek together fair and adequate solutions”.

The Cuban Conference of Religious (ConCuR) also expressed itself on the Cuban situation: “As consecrated persons, we live these events from the perspective of faith, and we also recognize the voice of God in those demands of the people. Those who took to the streets are not criminals, they are ordinary people in our cities who have found a way to express their discontent”. Then they proposed “five points that seem essential to us to overcome the current difficult situation and build brotherhood among all”: the legitimate and universal right of every citizen to express his or her claims in an orderly and peaceful manner; the prompt release of all those who have been unjustly imprisoned; the right to information and communication that has been violated or by interrupting the connection of mobile phones and blocking social networks; avoid falling into the trap of violence; listen to each other to remedy the causes that gave rise to these manifestations. Until yesterday, the arbitrary detention of at least 115 people was reported as part of the protests, including independent journalists, who reported the events in Cuba. The first images, released on social networks, showed thousands of demonstrators demanding “freedom” in the streets, while the government called to fight what it called “provocations” with the intervention of rapid brigades formed by paramilitaries organized by the same government.

The mass protest was caused by internet communications between citizens, who made known in all the provinces of the country what was happening in the capital, fueling the spirit of rebellion everywhere, which is why the government blocked the internet and social media. Last year Cuba seemed to be able to control the Covid-19 pandemic, but the uncontrolled infections have worsened the conditions of the people, who complain about the lack of medicines and doctors. The Cuban Ministry of Health website states that the country, of 11 million people, now has more than 32,000 active cases of Covid-19. On Sunday 11 it reported 6,923 daily cases and 47 deaths, surpassing last Friday’s data. According to the government, only 15% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Extraordinary Plenary Assembly of the Cuban Episcopate, held from June 14 to 18 in Havana.