T Nation

Castro Turning Catholic?


#1

If this is true, this is one of the most remarkable turn around in Cuba in the last 50+ years. After half a century of state sponsored atheism and religious persecution in Cuba for the President to turn Catholic and all free practice of religion in that country to be allowed is flat remarkable. So many people killed, imprisoned, oppressed, sent to work camps, etc. for practicing religion, for it to turn around like this is really unbelievable.
It's not as remarkable as if Fidel doing it, but it's still pretty amazing. So many people have died because of their faith, the true number is not known. It's in the thousands. Wow.


#2

Hallelujah, it''s a miracle!

Actually, it is not.

Raul Castro, despite being a slightly comic octogenarian, is still a dictator like his surprisingly resilient brother was.

For dictators, the old maxim about dictatos trying to stay alive and in power holds. Raul Castro is no exception.

Cuba, or THE Cuba of Fidel Castro is disappearing. Not as fast as everyone predicted in the early 1990ies but disappearing nevertheless. It started with the inflow of non-US capital and development of mass tourism catering primarily to Europeans, and the recent thaw in the US-Cuba relations is the final nail in the coffin.

Trade restrictions and bans are removed on a daily basis, while even the government propaganda acknowledges the need for an economic change. This is the same talk Gorbachev tried in the USSR - conceding that economic change is necessary, while political structures should stay in place. Didn't work then, won't work now.

This means that the crumbling regime will collapse no later than Raul or Fidel's death. They are not stupid and are every aware of that.

So that's why Raul has started his final PR campaign (Obama handshake, Pope meeting) - he is trying to salvage something for the future, by exploiting the traditional strong left stance of the Catholic Church lower ranks in Latin America from which the Pope hails.

By suddenly reimbracing religion, he is trying to create a new, separate socialist-catholic Cuban identity, more aligned with other South American populist movements. You know, the "Jesus was the first revolutionary" talk.

He hopes that vestiges of this new identity, fused with the la revolucion mythology will survive the US-exiled Cuban economic tsumami that is/will completely overhaul(ing) the country.

Nothing new here, this strategy was employed by Roman landlords more that 1500 years ago - change the domain to the spiritual to save what can be saved, in the Roman case lands and wealth of the equestrian classes reinvented as the clergy of the new barbaric states.


#3

It must have been a "hard sell" to steer Cuba away from Catholicism in the first place. Latin America and the Caribbean has a strong Catholic presence. At the same time, at risk of upsetting some Catholics here, a lot of the teachings, helping your neighbors, working for the greater good, etc., could be translated into a socialist ideology.

On the other side, the Castros have always had some dualistic policies. Although Free Masons have been persecuted under every other socialist or communist regime, because of it's secrecy and oaths to the fraternity, it flourished in Cuba. They helped out Fidel in the early days of the revolution, and he never forgot.


#4

As one gets closer to deaths door they tend to get religion. Hey, I could be wrong...


#5

Well, that's a lot of assumptions you seem to be making as to why, but that's not really the point. The point is the amount of people murdered over the last half century for doing the same thing Raul is contemplating doing. The millions of Cuban exiles and the many punished for wishing to practice their faith...
In terms of it being a ruse and a way to modify the dictatorship in order to preserve it I have no doubt.
However, moving from state enforced atheism to a free practice of religion in Cuba is a big deal regardless of the circumstances. Or course, we do not yet know the form this 'free practice' of religion will take place, if it even does or if it will morph in to just a different type of religious persecution we do not yet know.


#6

Yeah, you could say it was a hard sell considering how many people fled based solely on the basis of religious freedom. That is not to say that's the only reason why people fled or that all of the refugees were religiously motivated. It just means that thousands did flee because of religious persecution.


#7

Fidel is holding on strong to his atheism. I do wonder what he thinks about Raul's moment of clarity.


#8

Good question...oh to be a fly on the wall.


#9

Way to go, Your Holiness?

Extending U.S. relations to Cuba is working?

Marco Rubio is mad?


#10

I wonder how he got around this:

Fidel was officially excommunicated. Oh that's right! The current Pope is a Commie isn't he? In fact, Raul said that's what led him back.


#11

So if Raul "goes Catholic," does the US send back two generations of religiously prosecuted refugees?