(En español:) Febr. 24, 1999: Diario Las Américas, Miami, ed. electrónica, sección Exclusivas; Febr. 26, 1999: Diario Las Américas, pág. editorial, 4-A; Febr. 27, 1999: Información News Agency; Marzo 1o., 1999: Cuba-L; Marzo 3, 1999: soc.culture.cuba, soc.rights.human, soc.culture.latin-america. (En inglés:) Marzo 16, 1999: soc.culture.cuba, soc.rights.human, soc.culture.latin-america, us.politics, alt.politics.usa.congress, alt.politics.usa.misc, alt.politics.communism, alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic, can.politics, alt.politics.media; Marzo 17, 1999: CubDest website


Interamerican Gathering of Bishops:

and the Shepherds went to meet the Wolf...

Armando F. Valladares

The publication of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), "The Granma," shows
its politeness around a meeting table, in the Palace of the Revolution,
while listening attentively to the words spoken by a satisfied dictator,
flanked by smiling acolytes.

Recently arrived from the Popular Power Assembly, the dictator changed
clothes rapidly from olive green to a dark suit to receive them. They
did not vacillate in accepting unanimously his invitation, in shaking
hands and interchanging smiles. They did not vacillate, despite that the
infamous "Law of Protection to the National Independence," had been
approved, and in which a correspondent in Havana described it as a
"slamming the door" to the "hopes" of those ingenuous people who still
believe in a liberalization of the communist regime.

They arrived at night, and retired 4 hours later, enfolded by the Havana
darkness as it was reaching its zenith...

The setting couldn't be more tragically adequate. The visitors were 5
Cardinals and 25 Archbishops, Bishops, and priests from Latin America,
Canada, and the United States, participants of the 27th Interamerican
Gathering of Bishops. Among them the Prefect of the Congregation for
Bishops and President of the Pontificial Council for Latin America; the
Cardinal from Havana; the president of CELAM; and the presidents of the
Episcopal Conferences from Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Colombia, United
States, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Their names are of less importance than their gesture: these Shepherds,
by going that night only to meet with the Wolf and shake his hand,
moments after he had just decreed one of his major repressive acts,
turned their backs to the unprotected flock... Yes, they turned their
backs to the defenseless flock, even as hours later after they have
shaken hands with the Wolf, the Shepherds signed a declaration in which
they omitted any reference, even the most insignificant one, to the
terrible internal embargo that torments the Cuban people, and that with
the new repressive legislation, turns the stations of the cross more
cruel to our enslaved brothers. At the same time they stated a "spirit
of Christian solidarity," condemning the "grave consequences of the
economic embargo to Cuba."

"Spirit of Solidarity..." with whom? They had the opportunity to
manifest the spirit of solidarity with the Cuban people, by condemning
the internal embargo, but they rather chose to keep quiet. They had the
opportunity to at least demonstrate some distance with the tyrant, just
moments after he proposed and decreed the new persecution legislation,
but instead, accepted to meet during long hours of the night with him,
and allowed to be photographed in his sinister company. They had an
opportunity to show a "spirit of solidarity" with a numerous amount of
exiled families, that sent them different respectful messages.- adhering
to my open letter to the high Prelates, imploring them to break the
internal embargo (Diario Las Américas, 31 de enero de 1999), and they
ignored these appeals glacially.

Nevertheless those instances will go into the History of the Church
among the most painful, for the unfortunate Catholics in the
prison-island, at the end of the century and of this millenium.

The Cardinal of Havana, went far, very far, according to the agency EFE
and published in the Diario Las Américas on feb. 18, 1999.

As a matter of fact, after demonstrating a very timid "concern" with
"the judgement of who interprets" the new Law of Protection of the
National Independence - as if there was any doubt whatsoever of what
that judgement could be, as it pertains to the communist delegates'
interpretation! - the Cardinal even said that he "does not believe that
the new legislation has anything to do with the Catholic Church." And he
added that in order for him to carry out his mission, the Cuban church
"does not feel internally besieged." With this said, it looks as if he
wants to contradict our recent open letter to the participants of the
Interamerican Gathering of Bishops - signed by many exiled families with
very emotional messages - in which we all denounced the internal
blockade against the Cuban people.

If the Cardinal affirms that he does not feel "besieged" before the
gigantic repressive apparatus that is the communist regime, and before a
legislation that penalizes even the most insignificant form of
discrepancy against the regime; wouldn't it be true then that this is
so, because his words, actions and omissions do not oppose - not even
that they could possibly contradict - the dictator and his system that
is "intrinsically perverse?"

Yes, these reflections are indeed painful; but nevertheless are not of
dejection, discouragement or hopelessness. It is true that the darkness
continue to cover with its mantle, the prison-island. But paraphrasing
the admirable initial words from the Gospel of St. John, it is still
very true that the light of truth will shine in the middle of the
darkness, and it will prevail over it even after trying to gloom the
light...(cf. St. John 1,1).

These reflections are thus, a result of the hopefulness of people with
faith. To hope against all hope, is the perennial teaching of the
apostle St. Paul; and it is one of the solid foundations to continue,
even with more determination each time, the publicity struggle in favor
of the freedom of the Cuban people. As it once existed and still today
exists in the dungeons of the island, an "adamant" political stronghold
that never accepted, nor will ever accept to wear the uniform of common
prisoners - there also exists and will always exist an "adamant" exile,
that will never keep silent its voice, that will never be tolerant with
the communist dictatorship, that will never allow to be defeated by
human disillusionment, certain that - one day more, one day less, the
light of truth and freedom will finally prevail in our Homeland.

Armando F. Valladares, poet and Cuban ex-political prisoner, was
ambassador to the United States before the Commission for Human Rights of
the United Nations during the administrations of presidents Ronald
Reagan and George Bush