The Obama-Francis “Axis” 

Cuba, Sleights-of-Hand, and Confusion

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.

By Armando F. Valladares. Miami, Florida, January 4, 2015


Cuba, my homeland, 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 to condemn the so-called U.S. “embargo” have sent messages greeting the Castro tyrants but said not a word about the regime’s implacable “internal embargo” against the 12 million inhabitants of the island-prison.

We are witnessing one of the greatest examples of media sleights-of-hand in history: From a well-deserved image of aggressor, a regime which for decades spearheaded bloody revolutions in Latin America and Africa and continues to spread its tentacles in the three Americas, has been craftily made to look like a victimized underdog.


There are countless instances of international aid to the Cuban regime which have and continue enabling it to survive. After 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, the Americas witness the unexpected rise of a Francis-Obama “axis”: a sui generis spiritual-political “axis” which, regardless of the intentions of its high-ranking protagonists, will now provide the repressive apparatus of the Cuban regime with rivers of money and favorable publicity.


On December 19 last year, two days after Rome, Washington and Havana simultaneously announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. government and the Cuban dictatorship, a vessel of Castro’s Coast Guard, presumably in international waters, began ramming a boat fleeing Cuba 32 with people on board, including seven women and two children, to sink the frail craft. Those Cubans were simply seeking freedom and trying to break the infamous “internal embargo” that Castro has tyrannically has imposed on 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 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 but was hardly noticed by the international press, Western governments, “human rights” organizations or (how painful to say it!) churchmen who should imitate the Good Shepherd by being ready to give their lives for their sheep.


Last December 31 in Havana, coinciding with the 56th anniversary of the revolution, the police cracked down on opponents simply trying to meet at Revolution Square, illustrating, if there was any doubt, the real intentions of the regime.


In the United States, many specialists have shown in a well-documented way how the U.S. administration’s almost unconditional approach favors the Cuban regime and harms the cause of freedom in the island, whose inhabitants are now even more at the mercy of the tyrants. As a consequence, they harshly criticized 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, the same day the resumption of diplomatic relations was announced, in addition to reaffirming his mediating role Francis welcomed the release of “some detainees” without even hinting at the fact that the Cuban communist system maintains not just “some” but 12 million Cubans subjugated. It is extremely painful to say it, but the boot with which Castro continues 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 spies prosecuted and convicted for complicity in the murder of young men with Brothers to the Rescue and for planning to smuggle explosives into Miami for terrorist acts. For this reason, the ringleader of the communist “detainees” was given two life sentences.


Regardless of his intentions, this is not the first time that Francis takes measures that objectively favor 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. It gathered 100 revolutionary world leaders, including well-known Latin American professional agitators. The meeting turned out to be a kind of marketing “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 along the same line, when Francis overturned the ‘suspension a divinis” of Nicaraguan priest Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, of 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 hovers in the air a feeling that, from these standpoints we might be 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 and saw my faith strengthened by hearing the shouts of young Catholics shouting “Viva Cristo Rey, down with communism!” as they faced the firing squad, I must manifest the perplexities, anxieties and inner dramas that the above-mentioned events produce. This is one of the most painful situations that can exist because it touches on 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 line adopted by the Church in relation to communism.


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 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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