Cuban exiles express anger to Cardinal

FROM PHIL DAVISON

in Miami

A year in one of Fidel Castro's forced labour camps in the Sixties did not shake the faith of a priest called Jaime Ortega, now Archbishop of Havana and Cuba's only Cardinal. But it perhaps taught him that discretion is the better part of valour.

"No politics, no personal attack questions, please," he urged reporters here during the first visit to the US by a Cuban church leader since Mr Castro's 1959 revolution. He meant, of course, no personal attacks on the Cuban leader.

It was a tall order, particularly for virulently anti-Castro Cuban-American journalists who wanted to know why the Catholic Church was not more outspoken against the Communist leader. But the jovial 58-year-old Cardinal fielded questions well. "The church is not the opposition party," he said.

Cardinal Ortega's visit, in which he preached reconciliation between Cubans at home and in exile, was a huge event for the one million exiled Cubans who live in the Miami area. They gave him the warmest of welcomes but were divided over what to make of the visit.

After he called, at a Mass, for "turning the other cheek, Cuba is in need of a brotherly hug," an anti-Castro activist, Gladys Perez, said: "We can't turn the other cheek to a dictator and assassin like Castro." Others shouted "Viva Cuba Libre" (Long live a free Cuba) as the Cardinal left the Mass.

As always, there was suspicion over the Cuban President's motive in allowing the Cardinal to visit the US. Was Mr Castro simply seeing the way the wind was blowing - as Communism falters, church attendance is rising fast in Cuba - or was he trying to manipulate Catholics for the sake of his own survival?

The visit came at a time of disillusionment, anger and protest here over President Bill Clinton's policy switch ordering all Cuban balseros (boat people) picked up by the Coast Guard to be returned to the island.

Many Cuban-Americans complain that they were kept in the dark over what they call a "secret" Clinton-Castro deal. There have been massive anti- Clinton protests in Miami, which have angered non-Cubans. Anti-Cuban- American slogans have been painted, and countless letters to newspapers have expressed the sentiment: "If you want rid of Castro, what are you doing here?''

When two Cuban exiles went on a hunger strike outside the Miami Herald newspaper building, half a dozen non-Hispanic men quickly staged a counter- protest, gobbling down spare ribs within aroma-wafting distance of the fasters. Some Cubans who fled during or just after the revolution said the latest anti-Cuban sentiment reminded them of their early days here.

Most of the protests were organised by Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of an exile group called the Cuban National Commission, who says he is trying to encourage civic unrest on the island to undermine the Communist leader. He believes the best bet is a Polish-style Solidarity movement.

Mr Sanchez's policies run counter to those of the best-known exile leader, Jorge Mas Canosa of the Cuban American National Foundation, who favours the violent overthrow of Mr Castro, with US help.

At stake is the island's post-Castro course. While Mr Mas Canosa publicly denies seeing himself as future Cuban President, he clearly assumes he and his group would play a major role. Mr Sanchez believes the Cubans who stayed, and suffered, should be left to decide their future. That goes down well on the island, where many fear Mr Castro's fall might be followed by an equally repugnant dictatorship - wealthy exiles from Miami.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engineer / Customer Support Exec

£16 - 18k: Guru Careers: A Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians Mate / Electricians Labourer

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Approved NICEIC contractor is l...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Technician

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a small IT consultancy business...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager - North West

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is profitable and privately...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935