.- In solidarity with a recent pastoral letter by the Cuban bishops, Des Moines Bishop Richard E. Pates has voiced support for an end to America's embargo against Cuba, which has been in place since 1959.
“We urge efforts to lift the U.S. embargo against Cuba so that greater support and assistance can flow to ordinary Cubans,” Bishop Pates wrote in a Sept. 26 letter to Susan Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor.
“Engagement will do more than isolation to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. It will also recognize Cuba’s constructive role in mediating Colombian peace negotiations and cooperating with the U.S. Coast Guard in drug interdiction activities.”
The U.S. established a crippling economic embargo on Cuba in 1959, when communists lead by Fidel Castro seized control of the island's government. Castro was succeeded as Cuban president in 2008 by his brother Raul, who has introduced economic reforms.
These include the allowance of small private businesses, a decentralization of state businesses, and greater freedom for foreign travel and the sale of homes and cars. Despite these economic reforms, political reforms have not been forthcoming, and the Communist Party remains the only one permitted.
Writing in his capacity as chair of the U.S. bishops' committee on international peace and justice, Bishop Pates referred to the Cuban bishops' Sept. 15 letter “Hope Does Not Disappoint,” which called for political reform in their country as well as “an inclusive policy” on the part of the U.S. towards Cuba.
The Cuban bishops quoted Blessed John Paul II, who said during a 1998 visit to the country that “the isolation led to indiscriminate impacts on the population, increasing the difficulties of the weakest in basic aspects such as food, health, and education,” and calling for the end to “the unjust and ethically unacceptable measures imposed from abroad.”
They also noted the large number of Cuban Americans in the U.S., pointing out that “geographical proximity and family ties between the two nations are unavoidable realities that should be taken into account to favor an inclusive policy…which can alleviate the tensions and the suffering experienced by numerous persons and families, as well as a just commercial exchange oriented to the benefit of all.”
Adding his voice to this call, Bishop Pates added that the designation of Cuba as a sponsor of state terrorism is “an obsolete classification” that needs to be removed because it “prevents engagement between our countries and peoples.”
“It is long past due that the United States establishes full diplomatic relations with Cuba, withdraws all restrictions on travel to Cuba, rescinds terrorist designations aimed at Cuba, encourages trade that will benefit both nations, and facilitates cooperation in the areas of environmental protection, drug interdiction and scientific exchanges,” Bishop Pates exhorted.
“More engagement will help the people of Cuba achieve greater freedom, human rights and religious liberty.”