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Cuba: Bloggers Respond to Archbishop's Action

Bloggers are reaching boiling point over the political/religious acts of repression that have been taking place in Cuba – and the Pope hasn't even arrived yet. The latest controversy concerns bloggers even more so, as the request to remove protesters from a church reportedly came from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana, who “described their occupation as ‘illegitimate'”. The protesters were, among other things, demanding freedom for political prisoners and an end to the persecution of opponents of the regime.

Uncommon Sense linked to mainstream media coverage of the story, making sure to add his own commentary:

At the request of Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuban police…evicted 13 dissidents who had occupied a Havana church demanding Pope Benedict XVI hear their grievances during his visit to the island last week.

That's right — instead of meeting with them and providing them with his stature and his voice, Cardinal Ortega dropped a dime and had the police remove the protesters.

The main concern of the online community was summed up in this post by Dariela Aquique, in which she describes the elaborate preparations being made for the pontiff's visit and the resulting impact on citizens:

The Pope’s visit has already meant sacrifices on our part. He, the shepherd of good faith, is coming to share his grace and to request spiritual peace for all Cubans. He is coming to bless the virgin but he doesn’t know what that this has to do with energy manipulations and those other ‘manipulations’ of power.

This church protest and the many attempts by Las Damas de Blanco [es] and other dissident groups to meet with the pope have cumulatively been part of a struggle to give the Vatican a clearer picture of life in Cuba, starting with the human rights situation – which made babalu “scratch [his] head” over the fact that:

The Vatican continues its refusal to commit to a meeting with Cuban dissidents due to the Pope's incredibly busy schedule and time constraints. However, the very busy Vatican, which cannot seem to find the time to meet with the Ladies in White who are attacked and repressed every week when they try to attend mass, does have time to bid an official farewell to the pet crocodile given to the pope as a gift by the Castro dictatorship.

In another post, he made a connection between the church and state, emphasized by this captioned image that he republished and translated:

The partnership between the Castro dictatorship and the hierarchy of the Cuban Catholic Church became painfully obvious yesterday for thirteen dissidents occupying a church in Havana. Cardinal Jaime Ortega enlisted the help of the Cuban regime and used its security forces to evict the occupiers.

Babalu also translated the Havana Archdiocese's press release about the incident, and added:

The one thing that jumps out at you is the choice of language. The occupiers at the church were not ‘asked’ to leave, they were not ‘ordered’ to leave, and neither did they ‘plead’ with them to leave. In a classic example of Orwellian newspeak, the protesting occupiers were “invited” to leave the sanctuary.

Capitol Hill Cubans were just as outspoken about the politics that they saw seeping into the religious arena:

In response to the dissidents that have occupied a Havana church asking for Pope Benedict XVI to intercede on behalf of the human rights for the Cuban people, the Archdiocese of Havana said in a statement:

‘Nobody has the right to turn temples into political trenches.’

Yet, just last week, Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega held a Mass in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

So perhaps the Archdiocese should consider clarifying its statement:

‘Only the Cardinal has a right to use the temple for his politics.’

The online conversation was also taking place on Twitter; Translating Cuba did a thorough job of translating the tweets of one of the country's most recognized bloggers, Yoani Sanchez, who posted an online petition to the pope and summed up her reaction to the incident in this tweet:

@yoanisanchez#cuba Aunque tengo muchas criticas sobre acto de ocupar Iglesia, tengo peor opinion de la nota del Arzobispado publicada en Granma #PapaCuba

@yoanisanchez: #cuba Although I have many criticisms about taking a Church, I have worse opinion of the Archbishop's note in Granma newspaper #PapaCuba [#PopeCuba]

The Cuban Triangle, in stark contrast, said:

I have no idea if this Cuban ‘occupy’ movement and its day of protests was hatched in Miami or by activists in Cuba. But my bet is that opponents of the Cuban government will continue to distance themselves from it. The protesters have every right to request of the Vatican whatever they wish. But the Pope, Cuba’s church, and Cuba’s Catholic laity are also entitled to celebrate a pastoral visit as they wish. The protests accentuate the image of a movement focused more on actors outside Cuba than within, and they do the cause of opposition to the Cuban government no favors.

The blogger also seemed reassured by “the Archdiocese['s] statement explaining the end of the saga” and by the fact that “government authorities gave the assurance that no charges would be brought against any of the protesters.” Judging by the online commentary on the topic, he may be one of the few.

The thumbnail image used in this post is of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba. Photo by cheeses, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Creative Commons license. Visit cheeses’ flickr photostream.

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