Castro Freezes Church Funds

Friday, January 18, 2013
From Christian Solidarity Worldwide:

Cuban government refuses to release church funds

Church leaders in the Cuban city of Santa Clara have condemned the Cuban government’s refusal to allow Trinidad First Baptist Church access to its bank account. The accounts for the historic local church, with funds amounting to approximately US$27,000, were frozen by government officials in 2010.

Church targeted because of refusal to bar members of the Cuban dissident movement

In an open letter published in October 2010, the longstanding pastor of the church, Reverend Homero Carbonell, expressed hope that his retirement would convince the government to restore the church’s access to its accounts, which were opened with the International Finance Bank in 1988. He and other church leaders believe the church was targeted in part because of his refusal to acquiesce to demands from state security that he bar members of the Cuban dissident movement, including Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Fariñas, from attending the church.

According to another local Baptist pastor, Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, who authors the blog Cubano Confesante and is also a professor at the Luis Manuel González Peña Seminary, housed on the Trinidad Church’s property, the retirement of Reverend Carbonell did not have the hoped-for effect. The funds, the majority of which were donated by churches abroad for essential repairs to the 105 year-old church, remain inaccessible more than two years later.

"...the government continues to punish the church"

Reverend Lleonart Barroso told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the current pastor of the Trinidad Baptist Church, Reverend Juan Carlos Mentado, “in the short time in which he has been there, has been an obliging leader, complying with every legal requirement, yet the government continues to punish the church.”

The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that official decisions pertaining to religious organisations, such as the decision to freeze a church’s bank accounts, are made by the Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, with no recourse for appeal. Reverend Lleonart Barroso added that repeated applications to Caridad Diego, the head of ORA, for legal recognition of the church seminary have also gone unanswered.