Cuban priests tell Raul Castro: “Time is running out.”

They asked for change for the country

Wednesday Jan. 24 2018

MIAMI – Three Cuban Catholic priests urged Gen. Raul Castro Wednesday to allow political, economic and social openings as the island prepares for a change in leadership.

The Revs. Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre and Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca wrote in a letter to Castro that Cuba needs swift reforms to avoid “violence that would only bring on more useless suffering.”

The letter also details the lack of freedom for Cubans, the island's difficult economic situation and the need to guarantee the political and religious rights of all citizens.

CubaNet published the following text of the letter:

To Raul Castro Ruz, on the 20th anniversary of the Mass for the Motherland celebrated by Pope John Paul II and the homily by Mons. Pedro Meurice in the Plaza Antonio Maceo, Santiago de Cuba, on Jan. 24 1998.

This past January 1st marked the 59th anniversary of the triumph of a Revolution. A Revolution that was necessary because of all the atrocities committed with impunity by a government that had turned against the people. Many fought and many died to give their children a Cuba where they could live in liberty, in peace and prosperity.

Today, nearly six decades later, we have enough evidence to evaluate what we have lived through on our land.

Since the institutionalization of the Communist Party as the only legal party, the Cuban people have never been allowed to raise a different voice, and every different voice that tried to make itself heard has been silenced.

This totalitarian style has permeated every level of society. Cubans know they don't have freedom of expression. They are cautious when they talk about what they believe and feel because they live with fear, often even fear of those in their daily lives: school and work mates, neighbors, friends and relatives. We live together in a latticework of lies that reaches from the home to the highest levels.

We say and do what we don't believe or feel, knowing that everyone else does the same. We lie to survive, hoping that this game will end some day or that some way of escaping to a foreign land will turn up. Jesus Christ said, “The truth will make you free.” We want to live in truth.

The monopoly and control of the mass media means no one can freely access the means of communication. In the same way, there is no alternative education. All Cuban children are required to go to school, but it is only one school model, one ideology, an education in only one way of thinking. Cubans have a right to alternative educations, to options for different teachings on ways to think. Cuban parents have the right to elect what kind of education they want for their children.

It's deplorable that our people live in economic abandonment, forced by circumstances to beg for help from relatives who live abroad or foreigners who visit us; or to steal anything we can, while renaming thievery with delicate words that keep our consciences at bay. Many families lack a minimally stable income that allows them to calmly obtain the basic items they need to live. Eating, dressing and buying shoes for the children is a daily problem. Public transportation is a problem, and even obtaining many medicines is a problem.

And in the middle of these people who struggle to survive lies the hidden suffering of the elderly, often silently abandoned. How can one say that the money belongs to the people, when the people don't decide what to do with it? How can needed public institutions be kept up when the required resources are not available? Why invite foreigners to invest their money, while barring Cubans from equally investing their money? Cubans have the right to participate as investors in the economy and in the negotiations of our country.

And all of that comes on top of a lack of religious freedom. The church is tolerated, but is still monitored and controlled. Freedom of religion is restricted by a system of permits to worship. Christians can gather to share their faith, but they are not allowed to build a church. The church can celebrate open-air masses and processions, but only with a permit issued by authorities who can deny them without explanation or appeal. The church can raise its voice inside the temples, but does not have free access to the mass media. And in the few cases where it does have access, it's always under censorship. Lay people are sanctioned when they apply their faith to political and social practices.

This social dynamic that has emerged in Cuba has forgotten the person, the person's dignity as sons of God and the person's inalienable rights. It's nearly 60 years since Cubans first believed in an ideal that is always postponed and never becomes real. When anyone raises a question, when anyone raises their voice, they find only hazards and exclusion.

We want a country where life is more respected from its conception to a natural death, where family ties are strengthened and the marriage between a man and a woman is nurtured; where retirement pensions are enough to allow our elderly to survive; where professionals can live on their salaries with dignity; where citizens can become entrepreneurs and there's more freedom for labor and hiring sports figures and artists. Young Cubans should have opportunities for jobs that allow them to develop their talents and skills here, instead of leaving Cuba as their only option.

We have a legal system subordinated to the government, not a “rule of law.” It is imperative to clearly establish the separation and independence of the three powers: executive, legislative and judicial. We want our judges to be protected from pressures, that laws be obeyed, that illegalities are no longer a means of surviving or a means of control. We want our Capitol to be full of lawmakers who have all the power to represent the interests of the voters.

Our people are dispirited and tired. There is a stagnation that can be summed up in two words: survive or escape. Cubans need to experience the joy of “thinking and speaking without hypocricy” about different political criteria. We are tired of waiting, tired of fleeing, tired of hiding. We want to live our own lives.

This letter also has a goal, which is our right: We want to be able to freely elect. In Cuba we have voting, not elections. We urgently need elections where we can decide not only our future but also our present. Now we are invited to “vote” and say “yes” to something that already exists. There is no option for change. To elect by definition means different options. To elect implies the possibility of choosing different paths.

We write this letter because we want to avoid some day, for some reason, seeing Cuba plunged into violent changes that would only add more pointless suffering. We still have time to make progress towards a plurality of options that allow for changes favorable to all. But time is running out. It's critical to open the door.

It's useless to hide the truth. It's useless to make believe that nothing is going on. It's useless to cling to power. Our teacher Jesus Christ says to all Cubans today, “What's the use of winning the whole world if it ruins a man's life?” We still have time to construct a different reality. We still have time to build the kind of Cuba that Marti wanted “with all, and for the good of all.”

We commend ourselves to the Virgin of Charity, patron saint of Cuba. We beg her, mother of all Cubans, to intercede with the Lord, who as His Holiness Benedict XVI said during his visit to Cuba, “no only respects human freedom but appears to need it” so that we can always chose the greater good for all.

Fr. Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, Modelo Camagüey.

Fr. José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, Trinidad, Cienfuegos

Fr. Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca, Cueto, Holguín