Priest says worst poverty in Cuba is ‘lack of freedom’

Cuba protest Cubans in Havana protest in the streets and cry for freedom on July 11, 2021. | Domitille P/Shutterstock

In a recent interview with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, Father Bladimir Navarro, who lives in Spain, said that “the people of Cuba are surviving and the worst poverty is the lack of freedom.” He also noted that “the Church is a refuge of hope” for Cubans “to connect with the Lord and to heal the wounds of Marxist ideology.”

Speaking one year after the historic protests of July 11, 2021, the priest noted that the situation on the island worsened after the demonstrations, but that after the demonstrations, “Cuba stopped being news.”

Navarro said that “the Cuban communist dictatorship is afraid of losing power. They have passed new laws to perpetuate their Marxist ideology.”

The priest said that after the 2021 demonstrations there were many young people sent to jail. “Prison sentences are very long — more than 10 years for many young people — some even minors, 17 years old,” he said. “They only asked, ‘We want freedom, we want life; we want to live and we don’t want to [just] survive.’”

Navarro that the agents of the regime “go after anyone who posts a photo or something against communism on social media. Anyone who tells something about daily life, from the bread line or something that has happened at their children’s school, is being threatened.”

“Therefore, many people have decided to leave; emigration is increasing a lot,” he said.

“People are tired of raising their voices and being put in jail. There are still more than 900 prisoners, just for peacefully demonstrating on [July 11, 2021], without attacking; they marched peacefully,” he said.

Navarro also said that Cubans have “the need to be free and to have their dignity respected. The human, anthropological damage that the Cuban people are suffering is enormous.”

“Why do you have to be [considered] scum, a worm, an enemy to think differently or think something different than the Cuban communist regime? At the root of everything is the human damage that Marxist ideology has done for 60 years in Cuba,” he continued.

“Marxism goes against the family, it’s going to destroy the freedom and dignity of the human being. It’s misery and the worst thing that is happening to Cubans right now,” the priest said.

Economic situation

The priest told Aid to the Church in Need that in Cuba, “inflation has increased enormously. Cubans were very happy when it was announced that wages would increase. But now the price of the most basic things is very high; you can’t get milk, and there are no medicines.”

“We are seeing that many houses are falling apart throughout the country, while new hotels are being built in Havana. If you raise your voice and tell the truth, they go after you, they defame you. Jail sentences have increased,” he noted.

Navarro said that “the people of Cuba are going hungry and are in great need. It’s very sad to see how old people are selling their belongings in the streets to get the minimum to be able to buy something to eat. Or to see the long lines at the shops.”

“Apart from the economic misery, we are experiencing the misery of fear, of emigration, of the lack of values. Another urgent issue is the lack of medications; you can’t get acetaminophen or ibuprofen, of course not antibiotics,” he added.

Given the situation, he explained that the work of the Catholic Church is “to accompany the suffering of the people. As Moses did with the people of Israel, who brought the people out of slavery. There are many people, religious, priests, bishops, and committed laity who are accompanying those who are suffering the most, giving encouragement and hope in such a sad time,” he explained.

The priest said that “help is not only material, such as the mission of Caritas Cuba or institutions such as Aid to the Church in Need that are helping a lot, it is also necessary to accompany, to listen, to be by the side of the suffering and strengthen them materially and spiritually.”

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Navarro said that “it is true that Christ is the only hope; he is ‘the hope that does not disappoint.’ But things are bad, that hope has been diminishing, especially among young people in dire straits [who] only see leaving the country as a solution.”

“But Jesus has words of hope; the Church with its social doctrine can lift the falling hope of Cubans,” he said.

The priest asked the faithful “to be the voice of those who have no voice, to make known what is happening in Cuba.”

“Prayer is also fundamental,” he said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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