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Cuban dissidents criticize Havana bishops’ letter on Cardinal Jaime Ortega
Members of the opposition inside Cuba openly criticized the content of a letter sent recently by representatives of the Cuban Catholic Church’s hierarchy in support of Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, archbishop of Havana.
The letter was signed by bishops and vicars of Havana’s Bishops Council. In three paragraphs, the text denounced what they call a campaign to discredit Ortega and his efforts to improve the national situation.
Martha Beatriz Roque, spokesperson of the banned Cuban Network of Community Communicators, denied dissidents were being malicious. She said criticism of Ortega’s role was based on concrete facts.
“We simply believe that the dialogue headed by Ortega was not done with dignity nor did it follow Christ’s doctrine,” Roque told El Nuevo Herald in a phone interview. “Had it been so, we would all be involved in that dialogue process. The Catholic hierarchy bowed their head before the regime and turned their back on the opposition.”
Under Ortega’s leadership, and with the support of the Spanish government, the Catholic Church initiated a round of historic and far-reaching meetings with Cuban President Raúl Castro in May 2010. The dissidents were not invited to that dialogue despite repeated requests.
The result was the gradual and conditioned release of more than 130 prisoners, including 52 activists and independent journalists of the Group of 75, sentenced in 2003 during a repressive wave known as the “Black Spring.” Most of them had to go directly from prison to the airport and fly to Spain.
Exiles encouraged more than a hundred dissidents, such as Roque and Jorge Luis García “Antúnez,” Guillermo Fariñas and Vladimiro Roca, to send an open letter in August 2010 to Pope Benedict XVI harshly protesting the role the church’s hierarchy has played in the release of prisoners.
A year later, the pope announced the Vatican’s decision to keep Cardinal Ortega, who had submitted his resignation on Oct. 18 upon turning 75, in his post. [More]