CubaBrief: Castro regime and officially recognized Council of Churches of Cuba leaders reject humanitarian aid in midst of COVID pandemic crisis

Two leaders of the Council of Churches of Cuba are denouncing a young Cuban dissident who organized a humanitarian aid drive and are refusing to accept the assistance. Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico, Executive Secretary and Rev Antonio Santana Hernández, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba have criticized the efforts of Rosa María Payá to get much needed humanitarian assistance to Cubans on the island.

The Pan American Foundation for Democracy, in coordination with the City of Miami, called on all Cuban residents of South Florida and the U.S. to send donations to provide humanitarian assistance to Cuba, which is in the midst of a crisis of shortages in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.  Humanitarian aid was collected on Saturday, May 16, at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center and the containers filled with assistance reached the Port of Mariel in Cuba. Now the Castro regime is blocking the delivery of the aid.

Drop off and collection of humanitarian assistance for Cubans in May 2020 in Miami, FL

Drop off and collection of humanitarian assistance for Cubans in May 2020 in Miami, FL

First, it is important to provide some context.

The Castro regime in Cuba was an atheist dictatorship openly hostile to religion until their Communist Party Fourth Congress in 1991 when religious belief was declared to no longer be an obstacle to membership in the officialist party. The hostility remains but it is now more covert. This led Pablo Odén Marichal, then president of the Cuban Council of Churches (Consejo Cubano de Iglesias), who was also a deputy in Cuba’s National Assembly to become a Communist Party member. Baptist Minister Raúl Suárez Ramos, with the Cuban Council of Churches, who was also a deputy in Cuba’s National Assembly, joined the Communist Party. Human Rights Watch reported in their 1999 report Cuba’s Repressive Machinery that “Suárez Ramos earned government acclaim in 1990 when he lauded the revolution as “a blessing for our poor people” and criticized U.S. policy toward Cuba as an “economic, political, radio, and television aggression.”

The leaders of the Council of Churches of Cuba parrot the official government line and are rewarded with both benefits and privileges denied to others. Their response attacking Rosa Maria is simply doing the Castro regime’s bidding.

Meanwhile, those who do not follow the government line and engage in “subversive acts” such as Father Patrick Sullivan who “posted copies of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in his church and had urged his parishioners to defend those rights”  was pressured by the Cuban government into leaving Cuba in April 1988, continue to suffer similar or worse consequences.

Second, this is not the first time that the Castro regime has denied badly needed humanitarian aid sent by the Cuban exile community. Eight months after the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown, following Hurricane Lili’s devastating impact on Cuba the United States government in October 1996 waived a then existing ban on direct flights from Cuba for a Catholic Church charity to send a planeload of aid to help victims of the hurricane.

Ulises Cabrera in an article published by Cubanet on October 23, 1996 described the grim situation on the island.”To the hundreds of thousands of homeless Cubans now there’s a fresh crop. Hunger worsens by the day. The sugar industry and the rest of the economy will have even worse results. The government has informed us that they have used up the State’s reserves for emergencies, therefore we will be subjected to even greater misery amidst the misery, and even the faint hope that some fools clung to, will vanish.”

30 tons of assistance arrived in Cuba, but were held by regime officials for over a week and not sent to impacted areas. On November 2, 1996 the Cuban dictatorship said that it “was not accepting part of a planeload of food aid for victims of Hurricane Lili sent by Cuban-Americans because packages had been adorned with political, ”counter-revolutionary” slogans.”

According to then Father Thomas Wenski, “some packages were adorned with messages such as ”exile” and ‘love can do everything.’ Wenski reiterated on Saturday that the donors had not meant any harm by putting such lettering on the packages.”

Now in 2020, leaders of the Council of Churches of Cuba echo the positions of the Castro regime, but other religious leaders such as Pastor Alayn Toledano and  Pastora Maria Cristina Rodriguez Penton are bravely speaking out that the aid is needed and wanted by Cubans. This is a courageous position because independent religious spaces and practices continue to be targeted by the dictatorship.

In desperation, the Castro regime’s official website CubaDebate warns that humanitarian aid “could have bombs,” in an effort to spin what is becoming a public relations debacle for the dictatorship.  Cuban rapper and dissident Maykel Castillo was detained for four hours by the secret police and received veiled threats for having called for the release of the aid to help Cuban families in need.

Babalu Blog, August 15, 2020

Cuba’s government-run Council of Churches refuses to accept aid from exile community

August 15, 2020 by Carlos Eire

“Rev”. Antonio Santana Hernández, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba

“Rev”. Antonio Santana Hernández, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba

From our Bureau of Rendering Absolutely Everything Unto to Caesar

No surprise here, even though it is always shocking to realize that there are self-styled “men of God” who really only serve Caesar and regurgitate whatever Caesar tells them to say.

Absolutely revolting.

As Dana Carvey’s SNL Church Lady would say: “Well…. isn’t that special!”

Simply because Rosa María Payá was involved in an effort to send humanitarian aid to Cubans in need, the Castronoid Council of Churches spewed forth the sort of venom one expects from the Ministry of Truth rather than from true ministers of God.

Miserere nobis Domine…..

The Council of Churches of Cuba rejected the humanitarian aid sent from Miami and described the initiative as a campaign orchestrated by the Cuban opposition party Rosa María Payá, director of the Cuba Decide platform.

In a statement published this Thursday, the religious organization assured that the Solidarity among brothers initiative, which aims to deliver food, medicine and supplies to some 15,000 Cuban families, “does not correspond” to the response the island needs to the pandemic of COVID-19.

“We are struck by the recent rumors and accentuated manipulations of the ‘Cuba decides’ campaign, orchestrated by the activist Rosa María Payá … As a Man of God, I am assisted by the need to exercise the prophetic work of denouncing a fact that does not correspond with the response our country needs, ”reads the statement, signed by Reverend Antonio Santana Hernández, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

The reaction of the institution comes after Rosa María Payá announced last Monday that the humanitarian aid collected in Miami on May 16, 2020 is already in the Mariel container terminal waiting for the island’s authorities to allow their collection and distribution.

In this sense, the activist called on “committed churches” to help collect it and distribute it to those most in need.

However, the Cuban Council of Churches turned its back on the initiative and blamed the US embargo for the material deficiencies of Cubans.

“It is not a secret, the lack of essential goods that our people have, but neither is the cruel economic, financial and commercial blockade increased by the United States Government towards Cuba, nor is the decisive effort of the highest leadership in the country for safeguarding the lives of Cubans and many people in the world, evidencing the vocation of solidarity that distinguishes us as people of good will ”.

Likewise, the Council pointed out that “the channel to bring aid will never be one that promotes division and double intentions for political purposes.”

Continue reading HERE in Spanish if you like the stench of Castro, Inc. venom

https://babalublog.com/2020/08/15/cubas-government-run-council-of-churches-refuses-to-accept-aid-from-exile-community/

Evangelical Focus, December 11, 2019

Traditional public Bible reading threatened in Cuba

Activists insult participants of the Bible reading in social media. “We live the greatest repressive wave against Christians since the sixties”, Christian Cuban journalist and professor says.

For more than 10 years, Cuban Christians gather gather for annual Bible reading at ‘Malecón’ the first Sunday of December. / GNA

For more than 10 years, Cuban Christians gather gather for annual Bible reading at ‘Malecón’ the first Sunday of December. / GNA

The Evangelical League of Cuba (LEC in Spanish) organizes a public reading of the Bible, which takes place every year in the ‘Malecón’ in Havana, on the first Sunday of December. This year, pro-Communist regime activist Elaine Salaregui attacked this initiative on her Facebook account, saying that Christianity “express itself again in public space, this time giving visibility to the Bible they use as a club, showing up as a crowd, or even worse, as the Cuban Church”.

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

Salaregui leads the Church of the Metropolitan Community, with about 100 members and presence in several cities of the island. It receives support from the Cuban government, thanks to her proximity to Mariela Castro, the niece of the late dictator Fidel Castro. Also known as “the gay church”, the Metropolitan Community is not registered, however it has never received the hostile treatment other Christian communities suffer.

THREATS AND INSULTS

In addition to Salaregui’s post, journalist Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, proposed “to go there that day to read the Constitution”, a provocation that several people seconded. Rodriguez was known months ago for comparing evangelical believers with staphylococci, in a Facebook post. “Read your Bible in its proper places and behave yourself. Don’t cry in jail for breaking the law”, pro-Castro writer and poet, Jesús García, threatened the participants. Activist Roberto Ramos Mori, who has recently signed contracts with the government through the Ministry of Culture and the Havana Film Festival, and is known for using the hashtag #TheChurchWhichLightsUpMostIsTheChurchThatBurns, also supported Saralegui’s post. Meanwhile, the audiovisual director for the Cuban state TV, Leandro de La Rosa, said: “On the Malecon? Oh, my mother, they will need a megaphone to read there. That amplified reading will be beautiful, will it be something like public Tantrism? What nonsense of idea”.

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

The Cuban government represses any concentration of people in public spaces, however this evangelical gathering has survived a decade, thanks to its discretion. After the attacks on the activity on the Malecon, the LEC eliminated the public invitation, to avoid further confrontation. “Although we have gathered more than 500 people with open Bibles in one of the most important avenues in the country, there has never been any disturbance”, said a participant from previous editions, who prefers to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation at work . However, “with the threats on Facebook, we fear that they will provoke us while we read, that they will bring the same hostile attitude they have in social media to an activity where the elderly and minors participate”, she added.

LACK OF INFORMATION AND DISCRIMINATION

“The biblical reading is not carried out out loud for the participants or the passers-by; it has never been done like that before”, stressed another regular participant of the reading. “People are very uninformed, and when they give their opinion at those virtual forums, they speak exclusively from prejudice”. “

THE WORST ANTI-CHRISTIAN WAVE SINCE THE SIXTIES”

Cuban journalist and professor, Leonides Pentón, said in an article for Latin American news website, Evangelico Digital, that “today in Cuba, we are starting to see the greatest repressive and discriminatory wave against the Christian community since the sixties, when the Communist Revolution began”. Last month, seven Cuban Christian intellectuals wrote a public letter to the government, calling them to “respect, guarantee and protect freedom of thought, conscience and expression, and recognize freedom of the press”. They also demanded “the lifting of those measures which violate individual liberties on all Cuban citizens, and the non-criminalization of journalism and social activism outside the aegis of the State”

http://evangelicalfocus.com/world/4951/Traditional_public_Bible_reading_threatened_in_Cuba

Havana Times, August 18, 2020

Cuban Gov. Rejects Humanitarian Aid from Abroad

By Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES – Born in Miami, the “Solidarity between brothers and sisters” campaign managed to work a miracle. It transported food and personal hygiene items to the international Mariel port, to the west of Havana, destined for 15,000 Cuban families. The government is now facing the challenge of closing its doors or allowing the different religious organizations to distribute this humanitarian aid.

So far there’s only silence from Plaza de la Revolucion in response to a project that sidesteps the State’s power. However, the Council of Christian Churches in Cuba (CIC), took it upon themselves to speak for the Cuban people, God and Fidel Castro. https://consejodeiglesiasdecuba.org/

It was precisely on August 13th, the 94th anniversary of the Comandante’s birthday, that Reverend Antonio Santana, CIC president, felt the need to preach.

“As a Man of God, I feel the need to speak out in the face of an event that is not in keeping with what our country needs.”

Joel Ortega Dopico, the Executive Secretary of the above-mentioned religious association, issued a similar statement. “We believe that the campaign launched by Rosa Maria Paya, from the Cuba Decide project, is an insult to the Cuban people and churches.”

The statement comes four days after Rosa Maria Paya confirmed this news of the aid reaching Cuba, after donations were collected in May. The daughter of Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Paya sounded the following alert.

“We are warning Cuban Customs and its director, Cordobes Reyes, to fulfill its obligation of handing over these containers to the churches. They are the legal owners of this freight, so it can be distributed among families most in need.”

The government’s silence contrasts with the cry from the Council of Christian Churches, whose representatives declare the aid is not needed.   

“Cuba doesn’t need aid from those who serve a government [USA] which has wanted to create humanitarian crises with a political and economic agenda for 60 years. Far from seeking dialogue and respect and abiding by international laws, it violates them and holds no regard for diplomatic norms. It turns a deaf ear to the UN, year after year, when nearly all countries approve the Cuban resolution: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”

This statement seems to be copied straight from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). Just like any minister, explaining the system of government they represent, the reformed Presbyterian Church pastor explains to us in another paragraph:

“In our country, civil society, churches and the State interact in harmony, each of them taking on its particular role.”

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) controls the approved religious institutions which are directly attended to and supervised by its Central Committee’s Office of Religious Affairs.

Regarding the products in port warehouses, the almost unanimous opinion on social media is that this aid should reach its beneficiaries. In the only space for debate outside of government censorship trans actress and TV host Kiriam Gutierrez has spoken out to the CIC’s reverends.

“These five containers of aid were collected by Cubans and US citizens. There, our brothers and sisters, parents, relatives and friends made donations. I need this aid, my mother needs the diapers. Likewise, the medicines that are only found in international drugstores in dollars at exorbitant prices. My mother and I need the free food since you can only buy food in US dollars right now, and I don’t have any.”

Meanwhile, Rosa Maria Paya was cutting and straight to the point. She clarified about the destiny of the humanitarian aid. “The President and Secretary of the Council of Churches DO NOT have to reject anything because this Humanitarian Aid WAS NOT sent to them.”

In Santiago de Cuba, Alain Toledano, of the Sendas de Justicia movement, demonstrates there are other churches who aren’t standing by the Council’s statement.

“We have to let the world know, that this aid belongs to the Cuban people, it doesn’t belong to the State. We won’t accept any trap to try and justify a seizure of what the Cuban people need so desperately today.”

When asked about how feasible it would be to distribute this aid, Toledano said the following,

“We have everything organized on our part: personnel, drop off places, teams lined up to distribute. There is a list which testifies that over 15,000 people or families have asked for aid, we know who they are, their names. We have a well-organized operation, and we would only serve as a bridge, as a channel so that these blessings reach the many families. These include believers and non-believers, because this aid doesn’t discriminate, it’s for the Cuban people.”

In Miami, donors are outraged because the donation drive went on for some weeks, directly and publicly. It took place in the parking lot in front of the Mana Wynwood Convention Center’s warehouses in North Miami, without a single political slogan. The only phrase visible was Solidaridad entre hermanos (Solidarity between brothers/sisters).

Miami resident Nelson Ruiz buying soap and other items for his fellow Cubans.

Miami resident Nelson Ruiz buying soap and other items for his fellow Cubans.

At 70 years old, Nelson Ruiz gave us a photo after buying the popular bath soap “Irish Spring”, along with other similar items.

He said: “Soap cleans the body, detergent cleans clothes and plates; these are basic human needs, there isn’t any political statement in these containers. We have to ask what the leaders in my country are so ticked off about.”

“Is it that Cubans are coming together everywhere, without asking them for permission, after they have had us in shackles for 61 years?”

“Invoking the blockade is ridiculous because we are sending our aid from the US freely,” an Internet user commented. He ends with: “we are in the shadow of a crisis that has brought the entire world to a standstill.”

https://havanatimes.org/features/cuban-gov-rejects-humanitarian-aid-from-abroad/