Goodbye, Jaime Ortega

Monday, May 2, 2016
From Diario de Cuba's Editorial Board:

Goodbye, Jaime Ortega

Things are so bad in Cuba that any news about a shakeup in the country's elite - even if it's just a quasi-retirement, like that announced for Jaime Ortega- is good news.

Cardinal Ortega had been the Archbishop of Havana since 1981. In exchange for concessions for his Church, he ingratiated himself with the Castro regime to such a degree that he ended up being perceived as one more component of it. Under his leadership the Catholic Church sought and managed to recover a significant social presence, which is not illicit. What was wrong, however, was doing so by failing to denounce the social, political and economic crisis induced by the dictatorship, the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba, denying the existence of political prisoners and serving as a spokesman for the regime at international forums.

At these events the cardinal demonstrated an attitude of classist disdain and a lack of compassion, mercy and Christian love and sympathy for the "uneducated" or "criminals," as he branded Cuban citizens demanding the rights. Ortega forgot the mercy that Jesus showed to thieves and prostitutes. Rubbing shoulders with “Castro's princes” made him arrogant and led him off the path he had sworn to follow.

He served as a go-between for the Interior Ministry when it sent the Black Spring political prisoners into exile, thereby allowing the regime to avoid direct talks with the civil society groups that were pressuring the Government, and then proceeded to deny the existence of those same activists in Cuba. In this way he was complicit in the regime's sleight of hand campaigns: making people disappear and then claiming that they don't exist.

For all these reasons, though the cause of democracy in Cuba should not expect much from Pope Francis and Vatican strategies, the fact that Jaime Ortega has left the scene (at least partially) represents progress.