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Ignacio Uría, Ph.D. in History and Adjunct Professor, Universidad de Navarra

The Cuban regime and the role of the interlocutors

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 11:44:42 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Several days ago began in Cuba the visit of the Vatican Chancellor Dominique Mamberti, French born in Morocco and manager of the relations of the Holy See with the States. Mamberti is the issue two of the administrative assistant of State and his presence for attend to the X Catholic Social Week (a forum on social doctrine in which the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Holy See is also commemorated) is one more test of the change in Castro's policy towards the Church, which historically has oscillated between persecution and contempt. However, a month ago the Cuban regime decided to rely on the Catholic hierarchy to face two problems: the international pressure derived from the death of a political prisoner on hunger strike and the constant challenge of "Las Damas de Blanco" (Ladies in White), a group of women who parade every Sunday in Havana to demand the release of imprisoned family members, all of them imprisoned for being political dissidents or independent journalists.

Raul Castro, more sensitive to external pressure than his brother, decided to turn to a well-known written request : the Catholic Church. It is not the first time he does so and it will not be the last. Already in 1961, after the Bay of Pigs invasion, Raul met with the primate of the Cuban Church, Enrique Perez Serantes, to get the support of the bishops in a denunciation against the attack organized by the US. Some others have taken place without transcendence.

Now, although Havana does not want to link Mamberti's visit with the recent rapprochement of prisoners to their homes and the release of a dissident who will remain under house arrest, the Church has been recognized as having its own role in the political scene. The great novelty is not the contacts, but the fact that they have been reported in the state media, something totally new and which reinforces the impression that this time the changes are profound.

It is undoubtedly thanks to these moves that the EU has given Cuba a reprieve, since last Monday it decided to delay until September the review of its forceful Common Position, promoted by Aznar fourteen years ago. Brussels has decided to collaborate in the détente due to the changes that have been seen in the last four weeks.

Spain has also played its cards, which does not equate to immediate results. On the one hand, Zapatero met with Mamberti in his recent visit to the Holy See, while Moratinos has held two meetings with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, who is the son of a Spanish Republican exile.

The Holy See, for its part, has taken advantage of certain appointments to carry out interesting maneuvers, such as the election of the new Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, more favorable than the previous one to the dialogue between Cuba and the US, or the assignment to the Cardinal of Boston to grope the Obama administration to facilitate things. On the horizon is the retirement in 2011 of the Cardinal of Havana himself, which will leave the door open to a new Archbishop, perhaps the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba,
Dionisio Garcia, who accompanied the Cardinal in the four-hour meeting with Raul Castro as president of the Episcopal lecture .

Cuba, for its part, demands the cancellation of EU sanctions, while the US awaits confirmation of the new times. In the middle of these actors is the Catholic Church, a surprising interlocutor in the inevitable transition to democracy.