US embassy cable - 01VATICAN1436

CARITAS INTERNATIONAL ON CUBA - "CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM"

Identifier: 01VATICAN1436
Wikileaks: View 01VATICAN1436 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Vatican
Created: 2001-03-14 16:48:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PHUM PREL KIRF CU PREL KIRF CU PREL KIRF CU
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VATICAN 001436 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (VAN CLEVE), WHA/CCA, WHA/CAN (NIGRO), 
DRL/IRF 
 
FROM EMBASSY VATICAN/MESSAGE NO. 41/OL 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (TEXT/PARA NUM 11) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/11 
 
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, KIRF, CU, PREL, KIRF, CU, PREL, KIRF, CU 
SUBJECT: CARITAS INTERNATIONAL ON CUBA - "CAUTIOUS 
OPTIMISM" 
 
REF: HAVANA 00506 
 
CLASSIFIED BY A/DCM GEORGE H. FROWICK, REASONS 1.5 (B), 
(D). 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY: EMBASSY OFFICERS MET 2/7 WITH VATICAN NGO 
"CARITAS INTERNATIONAL" CUBA SPECIALISTS FOR A CONVERSATION 
ON CARITAS' HUMANITARIAN WORK IN CUBA. THE OFFICIALS WERE 
CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY AND 
THE ROLE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. THEY CLAIMED CARITAS CUBA 
ENJOYED A REASONABLE DEGREE OF FREEDOM AND MAINTAINED A 
COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GOVERNMENT. THEY 
CHALLENGED THE USG TO "ENGAGE" WITH THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT 
INSTEAD OF ISOLATING IT WITH INEFFECTIVE EMBARGO. THEY 
FORESAW A USEFUL ROLE FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE US IN 
CUBA'S FUTURE SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 
AND URGED THE USG TO PLAN NOW FOR THE POST-CASTRO ERA. END 
SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
ABOVE POLITICS - JUST MEETING A HUMANITARIAN NEED 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2.   (C)  EMBASSY OFFICERS MET MARCH 7 WITH CARITAS 
INTERNATIONAL CUBA SPECIALIST, FATHER NELSON VIOLA (AN 
ARGENTINE NATIONAL) AND CARITAS CARIBBEAN DESK OFFICER EBER 
FERRER (BRAZILIAN). THEY DISMISSED REFTEL REPORT THAT THE 
CUBAN GOVERNMENT MIGHT STEP UP PRESSURE ON THEM BECAUSE OF 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        VATICA  01436  01 OF 03  161439Z 
THE NEW U.S. ADMINISTRATION'S INITIATIVE FOR FAITH RELIEF 
AGENCIES.  AFTER INSISTING THAT CARITAS WAS NOT "POLITICAL" 
AND ONLY MET A HUMANITARIAN NEED, THEY OFFERED THEIR CANDID 
APPRAISAL OF THE SITUATION IN CUBA. BOTH MEN NOTED HIGH 
STANDARDS OF INTELLECTUAL, CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL 
DEVELOPMENT AMONG CUBANS. HOWEVER, THEY LAMENTED POOR 
INFRASTRUCTURE, EXCESSIVE STATE CONTROL OF THE ECONOMY, AND 
HARD-LINE ATTITUDES WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT THAT IMPEDED 
DEVELOPMENT.  VIOLA CLAIMED CUBA'S MARKET ECONOMY IS SLOWLY 
DEVELOPING IN BOTH THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS, AND THAT 
THE OVERALL ECONOMY IS BETTER BECAUSE OF TOURISM AND THE 
INFLUX OF HARD CURRENCY REMITTANCES.  HE SAID THE GENERAL 
POPULATION HAD LESS FEAR OF THE STATE AND THAT PLURALISM 
HAD BEGUN TO TAKE HOLD. 
 
3.  (C)  THEY BOTH CALLED THE U.S. EMBARGO AN ANACHRONISM 
THAT WAS STILL MANIPULATED BY FIDEL CASTRO AS AN EXCUSE FOR 
CUBA'S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL WOES.  FR. VIOLA OPINED THAT 
CARITAS WOULD HAVE LESS WORK TO DO IN CUBA IF THE U.S. 
EMBARGO WERE LIFTED, ALTHOUGH THE CHURCH'S OPPOSITION TO IT 
WAS PRACTICAL, NOT POLITICAL.  HE SAID IT WAS 
UNDERSTANDABLE DURING THE COLD WAR, IF NOT JUSTIFIED, BUT 
THAT NOW THE U.S. IS JUST LOSING BUSINESS TO EUROPEAN 
COMPETITORS. 
 
4.  (C)  VIOLA SAID CARITAS FUNNELS MOST OF ITS ASSISTANCE 
THROUGH OFFICIAL CUBAN MECHANISMS.  IN ADDITION, ALTHOUGH 
CUBAN OFFICIALS CLAIM THAT THERE IS NO HUNGER IN THE 
COUNTRY, CARITAS DISCREETLY RUNS "SOUP KITCHENS," FOR THE 
ELDERLY AND UNMARRIED MOTHERS.  THE GOC DISCOURAGES RELIEF 
THAT DOES NOT CONFORM TO THE SOCIALIST MODEL (WHICH WOULD 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        VATICA  01436  01 OF 03  161439Z 
PROVIDE EQUAL ACCESS TO FOOD FOR ALL), BUT TOLERATES THESE 
CARITAS ENTERPRISES.  VIOLA SAID THAT OFTEN THE SOUP 
KITCHENS OPERATE FROM THE RESIDENCE OF A LOCAL CLERGYMAN 
WHO CLOAKS IT AS A GESTURE OF HOSPITALITY TO ALLAY OFFICIAL 
SUSPICIONS. 
 
-------------------------------- 
SITUATION OF CHRISTIANS IMPROVED 
-------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  FATHER VIOLA CLAIMS THAT IT HAS TAKEN CUBANS 40 
YEARS TO WAKE UP TO CASTRO'S TWO MAIN ERRORS: HIS ANTI- 
AMERICAN POLICY AND HIS PROMOTION OF AN ATHEISTIC 
COMMUNISM. VIOLA CLAIMS THAT PUBLIC MANIFESTATION OF 
RELIGION IS BECOMING MORE ACCEPTABLE AND THAT THE CATHOLIC 
CHURCH HAS A GROWING INFLUENCE ON CUBAN SOCIETY.  ATTENDING 
CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS SERVICES NO LONGER LEADS INEVITABLY TO 
SECOND-CLASS CITIZENSHIP -- EVEN SOME COMMUNIST PARTY 
MEMBERS ARE NOW OPENLY CATHOLIC.  THE DIALOGUE THAT BEGAN 
BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND THE GOC IN RESPONSE TO THE ECONOMIC 
CRISIS AFTER THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL CONTINUES TODAY. 
CARITAS CUBA HAS GROWN FROM A SMALL HAVANA-BASED BRANCH TO 
A PRESENCE IN EVERY PARISH IN 2001. FATHER VIOLA DISMISSED 
CLAIMS THAT THE 1999 PAPAL VISIT HAD COME TO NOTHING IN THE 
END.  HE SAID MANY CHRISTIANS EXPECTED TOO MUCH AT ONCE. 
CHANGE, HE OPINED, TAKES A LONG TIME AND IT WAS AN 
ABSURDITY TO EXPECT ANYTHING ELSE.  THE PAPAL VISIT WAS A 
CATALYST FOR CHANGE. 
 
6.  (C)  VIOLA CLAIMED THAT CATHOLICISM AND OPENNESS TO 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 05        VATICA  01436  01 OF 03  161439Z 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ6817 
 
PAGE 01        VATICA  01436  02 OF 03  161443Z 
ACTION WHA-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   COR-01   NP-00    AID-00   AMAD-00  ACQ-00   CIAE-00 
      SMEC-00  DODE-00  SRPP-00  DS-00    EB-00    EUR-00   FBIE-00 
      VC-00    H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    LAB-01   L-00 
      VCE-00   AC-01    NSAE-00  NSCE-00  OIC-02   OMB-01   OPIC-01 
      PA-00    PM-00    PRS-00   ACE-00   P-00     SCT-00   SP-00 
      IRM-00   SS-00    STR-00   TRSE-00  T-00     USIE-00  SNIS-00 
      NISC-00  PMB-00   DSCC-00  PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     SAS-00 
        /011W 
                  ------------------D2D8E1  161447Z /38 
R 141648Z MAR 01 
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0000 
INFO USINT HAVANA 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 03 VATICAN 001436 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (VAN CLEVE), WHA/CCA, WHA/CAN (NIGRO), 
DRL/IRF 
 
FROM EMBASSY VATICAN/MESSAGE NO. 41/OL 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (TEXT/PARA NUM 11) 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/11 
 
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, KIRF, CU, VT 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        VATICA  01436  02 OF 03  161443Z 
SUBJECT: CARITAS INTERNATIONA ON CUBA - "CAUTIOUS 
OPTIMISM" 
 
OTHER CULTURES ERE "CUBAN TRAITS."  HE SPOKE OF AN 
INTERPENETRAION AND DIALECTIC BETWEEN OLDER AND YOUNGER 
BELIVERS.  DESCRIBING MARXISM AS AN INTELLECTUAL 
ABERATION, VIOLA SAID THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS CETRAL 
TO THE INTELLECTUAL AWAKENING OF THE CUBAN POPLE.  HE 
ATTRIBUTED OPPOSITION TO RELIGION AND O THE CATHOLIC 
CHURCH TO A "NATURAL SOCIOLOGICALAND PSYCHOLOGICAL 
REACTION" DURING THE REVOLUTIOARY PERIOD.  ACCORDING TO 
VIOLA, THE CATHOLIC CHRCH HAS RECEIVED HAVANA'S APPROVAL 
TO OPEN A THIR SEMINARY TO TRAIN FUTURE CLERGY (THERE ARE 
ALREDY TWO IN OPERATION) AND THAT CUBA'S BISHOPS ARE FEE 
TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY.  THE CHURCHIS CONTENT 
WITH, BT MONITORING CUBA'S SECULAR EUCATION SYSTEM TO 
GUARD AGAINST THE TEACHING OF ATI-CHRISTIAN THEMES. THE 
CHURCH STILL SEEKS THE REEDOM TO CONDUCT RELIGIOUS 
EDUCATION, BUT AS YE HAS NEITHER THE PERMISSION NOR THE 
FINANCIAL CAACITY TO ESTABLISH A SEPARATE EDUCATION 
SYSTEM. 
 
7.  (C)  THE PRIEST ALSO CLAIMED THAT CUBAN AUTHOITIES 
HAVE NO PROBLEM ABOUT USG FUNDS REACHING IS CITIZENS 
THROUGH DONATIONS TO CARITAS CUBA FRO ITS SISTER AGENCY IN 
THE U.S., CATHOLIC RELIEF ERVICES.  HE SAID CARITAS CUBA 
IS THE ONLY FOREIN NGO REGISTERED BY THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT. 
AS AN AM OF THE CUBAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE, CARITA 
IS IN AN ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE THAT FORCES TE CUBAN 
GOVERNMENT TO WORK DIRECTLY WITH THE CHUCH, SOMETHING THAT 
GIVES CARITAS "COVER" ACCORDING TO VIOLA. 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 03        VATICA  01436  02 OF 03  161443Z 
 
----------------- 
MODELS FOR CHANGE 
----------------- 
 
8.   (C)  VIOLA SUGGESTED THAT THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF 
MIAMI COULD BECOME A KIND OF CARIBBEAN CENTER FOR 
HUMANITARIAN AID OPERATIONS.  ACCORDING TO VIOLA, THIS 
DOVETAILS WITH THE VATICAN'S "SINGLE AMERICAN CONTINENT" 
POLICY, BUT IT ALSO MAKES SENSE FOR CULTURAL, FINANCIAL, 
LOGISTICAL AND COMMUNICATIONS REASONS.  HE BELIEVED THE 
U.S. HAD A KEY ROLE TO PLAY IN THAT THE COORDINATION CENTER 
MUT OPERATE ON A DEMOCRATIC MODEL.  ITS WORK WOULD HVE TO 
BE VERY DISCRETE AND ABOVE POLITICAL ISSUE.  HE SAID THE 
ARCHDIOCESE WAS ALREADY WORKING WTH YOUNG CUBAN-AMERICANS 
TO CHANGE ATTITUDES AND OSTER RECONCILIATION.  FATHER 
VIOLA MENTIONED MIAMI ASSISTANT BISHOP THOMAS G. WENSKI 
WAS A KEY FIGURE FOR U.S. CATHOLIC CHURCH EFFORTS IN CUBA 
AND THE CARIBBEAN REGION. 
 
9.  (C)  FATHER VIOLA ALSO ENTHUSED OVER A MEDICAL PROJECT 
IN THE DIOCESE OF SANTA CLARA.  SUPPORTED BY THE CUBAN 
GOVERNMENT AND AT ONE STAGE TO HAVE BEEN FUNDED BY A U.S. 
FOUNDATION, THE JOHN PAUL II PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY INSTITUTE 
OWNED AND MANAGED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS TO BE A 
CATCHMENT HOSPITAL FOR ALL OF LATIN AMERICA, AND COULD 
"SERVE EVERYONE'S INTERESTS."  APPARENTLY A FUNDING HICCUP 
HAS STALLED IT.  VIOLA PROFFERED THE HOSPITAL AS A PROJECT 
IN WHICH THE U.S. COULD BECOME INVOLVED, PERHAPS THROUGH 
THE MEDIATION OF THE MIAMI ARCHDIOCESE, AND SO ENGAGE THE 
CUBAN GOVERNMENT.  HE SAID CUBA WAS RIPE FOR CHANGE AND A 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 04        VATICA  01436  02 OF 03  161443Z 
PROJECT SUCH AS THIS COULD HELP STIMULATE POSITIVE CHANGE. 
ACCORDING TO VIOLA, U.S. ASSISTANCE IN THE PROJECT WOULD 
ALSO POSITIVELY AFFECT OUR INTERNATIONAL IMAGE, DAMAGED BY 
THE EMBARGO. 
 
----------------------- 
APRES CASTRO LE DELUGE? 
----------------------- 
 
10.  (C)  FATHER VIOLA URGED THE USG TO PLAN NOW FOR A 
POST-CASTRO TRANSITION, AT THE SAME TIME INSISTING THAT 
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CHANGE WOULD HAVE GREATEST 
SUCCESS WHILE CASTRO WAS STILL ALIVE.  HE SAID THE 
ATMOSPHERE IN CUBA WAS TENSE, AND THAT THERE WAS A RISK OF 
VIOLENCE WITH THE TRANSITION FROM AUTHORITARIANISM TO A 
MORE LIBERAL CLIMATE.  THIS WAS AGGRAVATED BY VOCIFEROUS 
HARD-LINERS ON ALL SIDES. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10.  (C)  CLEARLY VIOLA WAS CONFIDENT ABOUT THE CHURCH'S 
FUTURE IN CUBA.  HE EXPLAINED HIS UNVARNISHED CRITICISM OF 
USG POLICY BY SAYING "I ASK A LOT OF HAVANA, BUT I HAVE A 
RIGHT TO ASK EVEN MORE OF YOU."  ALTHOUGH THIS INITIAL 
MEETING WITH A/DCM WAS A RECITATION OF RAMBLING ANALYSES, 
SHIBBOLETHS, AND PLATITUDES, WE BELIEVE VIOLA CAN BE AN 
IMPORTANT LENS INTO CUBAN AFFAIRS SINCE HE TRAVELS 
REGULARLY THROUGHOUT CUBA AND APPEARS WILLING TO SHARE HIS 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 05        VATICA  01436  02 OF 03  161443Z 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ6824 
 
PAGE 01        VATICA  01436  03 OF 03  161446Z 
ACTION WHA-00 
 
INFO  LOG-00   COR-01   NP-00    AID-00   AMAD-00  ACQ-00   CIAE-00 
      SMEC-00  DODE-00  SRPP-00  DS-00    EB-00    EUR-00   FBIE-00 
      VC-00    H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    LAB-01   L-00 
      VCE-00   AC-01    NSAE-00  NSCE-00  OIC-02   OMB-01   OPIC-01 
      PA-00    PM-00    PRS-00   ACE-00   P-00     SCT-00   SP-00 
      IRM-00   SS-00    STR-00   TRSE-00  T-00     USIE-00  SNIS-00 
      NISC-00  PMB-00   DSCC-00  PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     SAS-00 
        /011W 
                  ------------------D2D915  161448Z /38 
R 141648Z MAR 01 
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0000 
INFO USINT HAVANA 
 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 03 OF 03 VATICAN 001436 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (VAN CLEVE), WHA/CCA, WHA/CAN (NIGRO), 
DRL/IRF 
 
FROM EMBASSY VATICAN/MESSAGE NO. 41/OL 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (TEXT/PARA NUM 11) 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/11 
 
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, KIRF, CU, VT 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
PAGE 02        VATICA  01436  03 OF 03  161446Z 
SUBJECT: CARITAS INTERNATIONAL ON CUBA - "CAUTIOUS 
OPTIMISM" 
 
EXPERIENCES.  WE WILL CONTINUE TO TALK TO HIM. 
MERANTE 
 
                       CONFIDENTIAL 
 
> 
 

 2001VATICA01436 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL 


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