Cubano Confesante


One of the most frequent questions I’m faced with in advocacy and awareness raising work is: “Why?”

It can be very difficult to come up with an answer or to begin to attempt to explain how a repressive regime or a dictator “thinks”.

There is a great quote today in the Washington Post (which has been doing some fantastic coverage of Cuba recently) by Yoani Sánchez, the internationally recognized blogger responsible for Generacion Y (and long time friend of Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and Yoaxis Marcheco, who have featured frequently on this blog). She’s talking specifically about Cuba, but her comment applies to pretty much every repressive regime I’ve come across:

Ms. Sánchez reminded us that such arbitrariness is characteristic of authoritarianism. “It is hard to think like a repressor, if you have never been one,” she said. “They have their own logic. One of the most paralyzing elements of the Cuban repression is its illogical nature.”

Click here for the full article.

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I’m posting the translation of an article written by a friend in Cuba. It’s not exactly a guest-blog, it appeared in Spanish on her husband’s blog cubanoconfesante.com – but with their permission I wanted to share it.

Yoaxis is the wife of Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a Baptist pastor in a small town in central Cuba. He and the denomination have come under intense pressure from the Cuban regime. It started when he refused to expel “undesirables” from his church. It grew worse when he began to speak out about the ways the government tried to intimidate him and members of his congregation. His church is under pressure to kick him out (so far they’ve resisted) as is the denominational leadership (so far, they are resisting too despite serious repercussions for the larger denomination).

Mario and his wife, Yoaxis, however, refuse to bow their heads and pretend that everything is fine and that the Church is free in Cuba. They regularly denounce violations of religious freedom – and in the article below, Yoaxis responds to an article that ran in the state sanctioned press challenging (not very well) information put out by my organization and in the process denigrating her and Mario’s denomination – which despite being referred to as “tiny and irrelevant” in the article is actually one of the largest and most thriving organizations in the country.

Please pray for Mario, Yoaxis, their children, their church and their entire denomination as they play the role of David to Castro’s Goliath. (Disclaimer: please blame me for any grammatical oddities or errors – it’s my translation)

Freedom in Cuba?

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By: Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez

I do not know what is happening to certain people or institutions in the world. I think they must be suffering from some kind of lethargy that prevents them from seeing the Cuban reality or it’s that they simply conform themselves to whatever the anti-democratic government of this country says and paints for them. Deeper Cuba is something else, far removed from the reports and the statistics that the government offers up to international opinion. The simple act of looking at a nation plunged into bankruptcy and the imbalance caused by more than fifty years under the same system, with authorities whose extreme self-sufficiency has led them to believe that they are immortal gods, all-powerful and irreplaceable, should be enough for the free world to understand that on this little Antillean island, democracy and freedom took off for the countryside one day and appear to have been unable to find their way back home.

I have also been unable to explain to myself why the Cuban people do not take up the reins and free themselves and everyone else once and for all from what has overwhelmed them for so long. It is very clear, at least to those with decent eyesight, that the country has succumbed; its inhabitants are fed up with daily life. Unfortunately the response to this unhappiness is the high rate of emigration, suicide, alcoholism, crime, the low rate of childbirth in an aging population, alienation and silence.

To speak of freedom in Cuba is almost painful. The recurring monosyllable is No. No freedom of expression; No freedom of the press; No freedom of political or party affiliation (in a single party system); No ideological freedom, No freedom of information, No freedom of assembly or meeting; and a very qualified religious freedom, where the church-state separation is only incumbent upon the church, because the state is constantly exercising its interfering control over the different denominations, associations, etc, manipulating the church leadership, constantly threatening, blackmailing, with an air of superiority. Truly, I do not know what they mean by the phrase ‘separation of church and state’, when the former is supervised in every way by the latter, every step it takes, every decision that it makes.

The questions posed by Benedict XVI, himself, during his recent visit to the country remain unanswered. When will they return, in their entirety, the institutions that the Revolution in its first years, confiscated from the churches? When will it be possible to create new educational institutions with a religious ethos so that the current and future generations of believers can be educated, not under the Marxist-Leninist doctrine but under the teaching of the Bible? When will the religious institutions be able to broadcast their own radio and television programs, or publish its newsletters, printing presses, editorials and bookstores? Isn’t denying these things to the churches a good indication of infringements upon their freedom?

On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that if we are going to talk about the restoration of rights to believers in Cuba, the same rights should be given to all, without distinction, including, as mentioned by Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy in his article: “Another Fallacy of Radio Marti…” to the “tiny and irrelevant congregations that are part of the Western Convention of Baptists, and the Apostolic Movement,” the latter which remains illegal because of the filtering censor of the famous Registry of Associations of the Central Committee. The great fallacy is actually (and believe me it is much more than a “quagmire of lies”) to say that in Cuba, its government, as cited by the same previously mentioned author: “never tortured or persecuted religious pastors for their beliefs, regardless of the size of their denomination, their isolation or a lack of network in or outside Cuba.” I think that the term “never” is perhaps a little too broad.

It’s obvious that this writer to whom I refer is only following in the footsteps of his maximum guide and current historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who had the nerve to state during the interview “Fidel and religion” that no church was ever shut down in Cuba. In the not so distant past, in the 1960s, the dictators, who were of course bitter enemies of religion, created the UMAP concentration camps, where hundreds of pastors and church leaders were sent. Many churches were literally closed, including the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Taguayabón, of which I am a member. Believers were barred from entry to the universities; many who decided to remain true to their faith lost their jobs. The church buildings began to empty in the era of communist ideology, with its atheistic and materialist character, which in Fidel Castro’s version took on the aspect of the exterminator of spirituality in a people who were naturally prone to belief.

The much-trumpeted Cuban Constitution of today, which is manipulated by the owners of everything on this island, says in Article 8, that it recognizes and respects freedom of conscience and religion. If they were being honest, they should have added a clause to the article: only if he who professes is a revolutionary, practices Fidelism, and has learned to agree with everything when given an order by the government bodies.” This clause is implicit even though the article goes on to say that the religious institutions are separate from the state. Article 55 expresses: that the state recognizes, respects and guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. It would be repetitive to explain this huge lie, in a country where those who think differently in terms of ideology and politics are imprisoned, arbitrarily detained, threatened, repudiated – always under the same slanderous pretext that they are on the imperial payroll or are mercenaries. In the colossal egocentrism of the Castros and their followers, “the revolutionaries,” there is no room for other mindsets. They fear plurality, just as all tyrants fear those of true faith and firm conviction.

In any case, even without understanding what is going on with those who proclaim themselves to the world to be free, and with a Cuban people so deprived of their most basic rights, I will carry on here inside a smothered Cuba and in this “tiny and irrelevant Baptist Convention of Western Cuba,” which for me is full of beautiful traditions and a deep history of more than one hundred years, with its champions of faith, like the man who was very close to Martí, Alberto J. Díaz, a collaborator in the struggle for independence against the Spanish colonial power; Luis Manuel González Peña, who during the darkest period for believers in Cuba told a government official who predicted the end of churches in this country, that there would be churches yet for a good while, and even more.

I’ll believe in a Jesus who does not mingle with the ego-centric powers of this world but rather with those below, with the “immense minorities” and who most certainly was followed by many, only later to be abandoned by the great multitude, including his disciples, and who was also crucified for many and accepted by few.