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    The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba

    The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas
    Posted on September 19, 2015

    Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes,
    this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for
    (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls
    for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less
    in the island’s repressive atmosphere.

    Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope
    Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September
    19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as
    no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the
    saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager
    crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military
    regime has left many people dazed and confused.

    The twisted nature of Cuba’s leadership — stuck like a peg in the daily
    life of the island since 1959 — has taken the liberty of deciding which
    steps its countrymen must take without allowing questions to be raised.
    Rather than being a cause for celebration, the specific details of this
    phony amnesty are of a source of embarrassment and shame.

    The internal gulag

    There is something the intended audience for this “humanitarian gesture”
    — Pope Francis, Cardinal Ortega, the bishops, priests, laity and all the
    faithful mentioned in the message of thanks published in Thursday’s
    special edition of Gaceta de Cuba, issued by the Ministry of Justice —
    should know.

    The first thing is that the sword of Damocles hangs over all the people
    covered by this amnesty. The legal actions brought against those who are
    imprisoned and the combined judgements handed down during their periods
    of incarceration are filled with irregularities and could only have been
    permitted in an authoritarian regime like the one in Havana.

    The Cuban example is quite possibly the only one of its kind in the
    western world. The offices of the local prosecutor in every city across
    the country are physically adjacent to those of the National
    Revolutionary Police (PNR). So much for separation of powers. Arguing
    about such issues would be a waste of time considering the neighborhood
    police, investigators, deputies and department heads have lunch with
    officials from the prosector’s office every day, and even tend to their
    physiological needs in the same restrooms.

    PNR department heads still operate like old-fashioned bosses. Their
    aides, advisers and trusted sources are still presidents of Commitees
    for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), members of the Cuban Communist
    Party (PCC) and the president of the People’s Council, which assists
    local bosses through the Commission for Prevention. From this select
    group — the face of Cuban democracy — come recommendations on the
    application of the criminal threat law, among others.

    The involvement of State Security in the trials of people hostile to the
    Revolution is one of the jokes of the Cuban justice system, one that
    will be difficult to eradicate from the public mind.

    When Cubans are arrested for assaulting — verbally, that is — the
    “Revolutionary process,” the offense is immediately treated as a common
    crime, which in most cases refers to drunkeness, possesion of stolen
    goods, domestic violence and illegal economic activity, crimes that are
    laughable in a country where the destruction of wealth is presented as
    an accomplishment.

    Once the investigators of the Department of Operations or the Criminal
    Investigations Unit are presented with the case of an individual accused
    of a crime — one that does not presumably pose a threat to state
    security — the file (containing accusations by friends of the accused,
    jokes about Fidel Castro, extravagant tastes in fashion and the like) is
    transferred to the cramped offices of the public prosecutor. Case closed.

    Cases involving convictions for posing a threat to society (a crime
    defined as “pre-criminal dangerousness”), contempt (for the authority or
    the person of the commander-in-chief), assault (against authority) and
    resistance to arrest (which in most cases is arbitrary) are reviewed by
    those in Cuba who must approve all amnesties. These are granted as a
    show of respect for foreign visitors — whether they be popes or
    presidents — passing through Havana.

    However, among the thousands of those freed, you will not see the names
    of human rights activists who have been sentenced or who are awaiting
    trial for civil disobedience, criminal intent or non-payment of fines,
    although they have been known to shout, “Down with Raúl! Down with
    hunger!” or “Freedom for political prisoners!”

    Savoring the crumbs

    Though the manipulation of the law — to say nothing of its proper
    application — is not changing, the little men in battle fatigues in the
    Palace of the Revolution are ever more aware they must offer some crumbs
    to promote the idea that “significant changes” are taking place in Cuba.

    The Castro dictatorship changes at will the rules of the game it has
    agreed to play with the United States, the Vatican, the Cuban Catholic
    church and the collection of businessmen and foreigners who see a gold
    mine in the Caribbean Sea.

    There were already more than 140 detentions in less than 72 hours,
    related to the wishes of opponents in the east of the Island to attend
    the mass in honor of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. Out of that
    arbitrary action have been documented the following incidents: arbitrary
    arrests; beatings; tortures leaving visible marks on the gluteus and
    other parts of the body; cutting of hair to teach a lesson; threats of
    shooting detainees through the head; ripping off of clothing and the
    video-recording of such acts by the perpetrators themselves. The silence
    of the Catholic hierarchy was proverbial, and that of the puppets who
    who applaud the show by the generals in Havana, was shameful.

    This week that remains before the arrival of the Argentine Pope to Cuba
    will bring other surprises. The Office of Religious Affairs of the
    Communist Party of Cuba, eternally directed by Caridad Diego, will
    expedite other construction permits for Catholic churches, settlements
    of religious orders in secluded places, perhaps–and it is a party that
    will not be interrupted by the noise of those who demand respect for
    human rights.

    In the days prior to the pastoring by Francis in Havana, Holguín and
    Santiago de Cuba, it is expected that hundreds of peaceful opponents
    will be detained (as occurred in March 2012 upon the arrival of Benedict
    XVI), or they will be forced to remain under house arrest, until the
    Vatican leader leaves for Washington.

    One month after this “historic” visit, Francis will comply with
    protocol, as required by the standards of Western civilization. He will
    send a message of thanks to the man who opened his arms to him in
    Havana–even while that man’s hands were stained with blood–but he would
    have asked for forgiveness, and would have received it, with a smile.

    Cardinal Ortega, the bishops and the priests will frame the pastoral
    visit in terms no less sweet. When seated at the table, one does not
    speak of unpleasant matters. It could be that Cuba will have some.

    Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

    Source: The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe
    Rojas | Translating Cuba –

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