Spain's ignoble mission
Posted on Tuesday, 07.13.10
Spain's ignoble mission
BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
In Cuba, where one is jailed or released for reasons of state, not of
law, Raúl Castro has decided to free 52 prisoners of conscience. It's
his least-bad option. This time, the opposition defeated him.
The heroic resistance of the Cuban democrats, their relatives and the
rest of the dissident movement was destroying the already battered image
of the dictatorship. Since 1962, this episode has been repeated with
some frequency. The regime fills the prisons and then needs to evacuate
them. For half a century, thousands of Cuban political prisoners have
been caged without any reason or released for strategic reasons before
they could serve their sentences.
How does the regime perform the reverse of an incarceration? This is
where the Catholic Church came in. And this is the novel part. Raúl does
not believe in God but does believe in priests. To him, God is an
incomprehensible abstraction, while the church is part of the tangible
Cuban reality. For his part, Cardinal Jaime Ortega does not believe in
communism but does believe in Raúl Castro. He assumes that Raúl, in
contrast to Fidel, sincerely desires to introduce substantial changes in
the country's social and economic sectors, because he understands that
Cuba's society is foundering amid unproductiveness, corruption and an
absolute lack of trust in a clumsy system that has carried it to disaster.
Raúl has discovered a phenomenon that's typical of societies in the
process of transformation: to change course, power requires an
interlocutor who is foreign to its own nature. Many years ago, Adolfo
Suárez told me: “I needed the communists and the socialists to bury
Francoism and bring democracy to Spain.'' Raúl, who still does not dare
to dialogue with the opposition, needs the church — for now. It's not a
bad decision. Maybe he'll get used to it and use it for other changes in
the future. It could be useful for everyone.
Raúl, who governs through a group of obedient army officers, feels that
he can't take the amnesty issue before the Cuban Parliament or the
Communist Party, because those institutions, which are in silent revolt,
have been trained to obey, not deliberate.
It would be very dangerous for him today to open a debate within
structures of power pervaded by an explosive mixture of incredulity with
the dogmas of the sect, uncertainty over the practical results of the
government's model and total dissatisfaction with two brothers who have
done as they've pleased in half a century of blunders and arbitrariness.
For its part, the church accepted the responsibility knowing that it was
going to be placed between a rock and a hard place, because that's one
role it cannot shirk: to aid society in tragic moments. That's what we
saw in the South Africa of Episcopal Bishop Desmond Tutu and in the
Nicaragua of Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo under the
Sandinista Party. They are very different situations, but the basic
issue is the same: The institution serves as a facilitator of solutions.
It becomes a vehicle to accelerate changes and prevent violence.
Naturally, it also seeks to regain its influence. Nothing evil in that.
However, Raúl has given Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos
a counterproductive role. His task is to relieve the international
pressures on the dictatorship. Spain gains nothing by that ignoble
crusade. Raúl uses the church to begin to solve the problem of the
prisoners of conscience, which fundamentally benefits the Cuban
democrats, but Moratinos is an instrument to try to persuade the
European nations to abandon their common position in the face of
tyranny. This damages and delays the process of change.
The diplomat's strange theory is that gentleness in treatment softens
the Castros' military dynasty. But he doesn't realize that what has just
happened gives the lie to his theory: What opened the cell doors was the
firmness of some countries and the heroism of the opposition. Moratinos
insists on an error that hurts the Cubans, does not benefit Spain and
contradicts the values and legal commitments of the European Union.