Yahoo! May 26, 2000
HLI: In Spite of Controversy, the Catholic Church Must Persevere for the People of Cuba
Thursday May 25, 3:25 pm ET. Company Press Release. SOURCE: Human Life International
FRONT ROYAL, Va., May 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Recently, the Cuban government expelled Catholic priest Father Miguel Jorda from the country for carrying out pro-life work in his parish. And the government's official newspaper, Granma, accused Monsignor Jose Siro Gonzalez, Bishop of Pinar del Rio and
President of Caritas Cuba, and Catholic lay leader Dagoberto Valdes, Director of the Catholic magazine Vitral, of conspiring against the government. The accusations were made after a public visit to Cuba by Senator Zigbniew Romaszewski of Poland who is a member of that country's Solidarity group.
``It is lamentable that these incidents have occurred. However, we must hold out hope that the Cuban government will see the value of the rich works of mercy that the Catholic Church is carrying out for the Cuban people,'' said Father Richard Welch, CSSR, JCD, President of Human Life
International, the largest pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family apostolate in the world.
``In Cuba right now there are Catholic doctors who are teaching natural family planning methods with great success. The effectiveness of the Billings Method has been praised by the nation's medical forum; one of the doctors has already won three First Prizes in local medical symposiums,''
explained Father Welch.
``Other Catholic ministry work is carried out within the parish communities. Conferences on chastity among young people have been meeting with great success. And conferences on abortion, crisis pregnancies, and post- abortion trauma counseling are also bringing new truth to the people,'' he
added. ``Caritas Cuba distributes food and medicine among the people. The Missionaries of Charity care for the sick.''
``The Church is at work in Cuba. And while we greatly regret the incidences, we must persevere. The truth about faith, life and family is of immense benefit to the country. The mission of the Catholic Church is to serve and help the people, and that mission is critical in the country of Cuba,''
concluded Father Welch.
Founded in 1981, Human Life International (http://www.hli.org, 1-800-549-LIFE) is the world's largest pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family educational apostolate, with chapters in the United States and a network of international branches and affiliates around the world.
Cuba Sanctions Battle Brewing in House
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, 25 (Reuters) - A behind-the-scenes victory for lawmakers backing U.S. food and medicine sales to Cuba could set the stage for the House of Representatives to vote on the controversial issue in June, congressional aides said on Thursday.
Legislation to allow the sales, now banned under U.S. sanctions that have been in place for nearly 40 years, is backed by farm state lawmakers who argue that U.S. trade with Cuba will -- much like communist-ruled China -- help bring about democratic change.
The House's Republican leaders and the Cuban-American lobby are bitterly opposed to any easing of the sanctions.
The Republican leaders, who have been trying to kill the measure without a House vote, backed down on Thursday in the face of a likely defeat on a procedural issue, according to a spokesman for Rep. George Nethercutt, a Washington Republican.
Nethercutt is the chief sponsor of the amendment to ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba.
``Leadership had thought that they did not need to deal fairly with us,'' the aide said. ``That approach has now been soundly rejected.''
Congress imposed sanctions on Cuba in the hopes of ousting Cuban President Fidel Castro, who led the Communists to power on the island in 1959.
Farm and business groups eye Cuba, 100 miles off Florida in the Caribbean Sea, as a potentially large-scale buyer of U.S. food. They say economic engagement would encourage democracy in Cuba as well as bolster weak U.S. agricultural prices.
Cuba buys about $700 million worth of food annually.
Congressional support for an easing of the sanctions has rapidly gathered strength in recent weeks.
Proponents say it makes little sense to normalize trade with China, which has been criticized for human rights abuses, while continuing to shun Cuba.
The Cuban-American community's strong support for the sanctions has kept many lawmakers at bay until now. But the high-profile custody battle over Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez has convinced some lawmakers to come off the fence.
``For the first time, because of the American public's disgust with the Elian Gonzalez controversy and the interests of farm groups, lawmakers are not afraid to challenge the Cuban American interests on this issue,'' said one Hill aide. ``You are seeing a real shift in both public opinion and
the willingness of Congress to reevaluate this issue.''
Panel Backs Easing Sanctions
The House Appropriations Committee approved the sanctions provision, which also affects U.S. food sales to Iran, Sudan and North Korea, this spring as part of its fiscal 2001 agricultural spending bill.
But the House Rules Committee, which sets the terms for floor debate on all legislation, bowed to leadership pressure late Wednesday and adopted a ``rule'' that would have allowed the sanctions provision to be stripped from the bill on the House floor without a vote.
Rep. Tom Delay of Texas, No. 3 in the House Republican leadership, is an outspoken foe of easing sanctions on Cuba.
But House Speaker Denny Hastert of Illinois, home to Archer Daniels Midland and other companies pushing for change, was later said to be trying to fashion a compromise on the legislation.
Nethercutt accused Republican leaders of trying to kill the amendment with parliamentary procedures. He urged his colleagues to vote against the rule, which was set for floor debate on Thursday.
Rather than go through with that vote and face possible defeat, Republican leaders pulled the rule from the legislative calendar, most likely delaying any further action on the issue until after the House returns in June from its annual Memorial Day recess.
Supporters of the sanctions provision saw that decision as a recognition by House leaders that they lack the votes to defeat the measure on the House floor.
``It is controversial for certain members of our leadership, but clearly the majority of the House supports it or they wouldn't have pulled the rule today,'' Nethercutt's aide said.
For the second year in a row, the Senate farm spending bill also contains a provision that would ease sanctions on Cuba.
Senators voted 70-28 for the exemption last year, but House Republican leaders killed the measure during final House-Senate negotiations on the bill.
Meanwhile, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman shied from comment on whether the House should have a chance to vote on easing sanctions on Cuba.
``I am smart enough to know not to tell the House of Representatives what they should or should not vote on,'' Glickman told reporters after a speech.
The administration says it has concerns about both the House and Senate provisions and wants to be sure ``there is power of the executive branch to make decisions during times of national emergencies,'' Glickman said.
He said he did not want to prejudge the issue because ''we're working with Congress on that right now.''
Ex-INS Espionage Case Goes to Jury
By Meg Richards, Associated Press Writer.
MIAMI, 26 (AP) - It's up to a jury to decide whether a U.S. immigration official accused of espionage ``made a mistake'' or broke the law when he passed secret information to a friend with ties to the Cuban government.
Mariano Faget, 54, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Cuba, could get 10 years in prison if convicted of charges including violating the Espionage Act. Jurors began deliberating the case Thursday and will return Tuesday.
Faget, a 34-year veteran with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, was the target of a videotaped FBI sting, set up to see what he would do with classified information, prosecutors said. Investigators gave him a phony story that a certain Cuban official planned to defect.
Within minutes, Faget was caught on tape telling his friend and business partner Pedro Font over the phone about the impending defection.
``Mariano Faget was a government employee willing to betray the trust of people he was sworn to serve,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis Miner told jurors. ``He disclosed classified information for no better purpose than his own personal reasons, his own personal gain.''
Faget testified that he tipped off his friend because Font was meeting with a Cuban diplomat that day. Faget said he feared Font would be harmed if Cuban officials thought he was involved with the defection.
``This is an honest government servant who made a mistake, but he did not violate the law,'' defense attorney Edward O'Donnell said. ``It was never his intent to hurt this country ... his intent was to warn his friend.''
But the prosecutor ridiculed Faget's assertion that he didn't think telling Font about the defection would hurt national security.
``He took it out of the realm of control of the United States government and gave it to someone else, to use however they wanted,'' Miner said.
Elian Is Moved to Washington
By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer.
WASHINGTON, 26 (AP) - The young boy with the red shirt and blue jeans hopped out of a van and gazed at his new home.
After a month's stay at a rural retreat in Maryland, Elian Gonzalez and his entourage from Cuba are now staying at a historic house in northwest Washington, not far from the official residence of Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites).
It was known for two days that Elian was leaving Maryland but there was no confirmation of the new location until four vans carrying the Gonzalez family pulled up Thursday night at the two-story home known as Rosedale Farm.
The property is enclosed by a wooden fence and has a large yard where Elian and his four playmates from Cuba can frolic.
Gregory Craig, the lawyer for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, said the move was a matter of convenience. Craig, who works at a Washington law firm, said consultations will be easier with the family nearby. Craig lives two blocks away.
The family is awaiting a court decision on whether Elian will be allowed to return to Cuba, as his father wishes.
Margery Landry, 46, who lives a half-block away from Rosedale, said she considered having Elian and his entourage in her neighborhood ``part of the things that make city living interesting. But when you come home and see the television towers (on news vans) and the people shouting, it brings it
a little too close to home.''
Another neighbor, Terry Blackwelder, 52, was somewhat concerned when she returned home from her job as a school librarian Thursday and saw helicopters circling in the sky. At first, she said, she thought a crime had occurred.
The move was characterized by the Cuban government as a step toward the 6-year-old's ``liberation.''
The house, believed to be about 200 years old, is the headquarters of Youth for Understanding, International Exchange, which promotes exchanges involving high school students from the United States and foreign countries. It is just blocks away from the vice president's mansion on the grounds of
the Naval Observatory.
On Wednesday, the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches, who has supported Juan Miguel Gonzalez's desire for Elian to return to Cuba, said the family needed to get away from the Maryland retreat.
``I think they're just ready to do something different,'' Campbell said. ``It's a very beautiful, but very isolated, place.''
Craig said the stay of the Gonzalez family in Maryland enabled them to ``recover from the tragedy and trauma of recent months.''
The boy was the victim of a shipwreck off the Florida coast during a crossing from Cuba that claimed the life of his mother last November. He was rescued and spent five months with relatives in Miami before federal agents seized him in a gunpoint raid on April 22 and delivered him to his father.
The relatives are moving out of the Miami home where Elian stayed until last month.
The family has lived in the modest home for more than a decade. However, they say they've felt uncomfortable there since Elian's departure.
Helms Asks Reno To Review Orioles
BALTIMORE, 25 (AP) - Sen. Jesse Helms has asked Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate whether the Baltimore Orioles refuse to sign Cuban defectors.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, whose team played the Cuban national team in Havana and Baltimore last year, has said prospective Cuban players would be assessed on their merit.
Helms, a North Carolina Republican, asked Reno on Thursday to review the Orioles' hiring practices ``to determine whether or not they are, in fact, implementing a policy of not hiring Cuban defectors.''
Helms, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said such a policy would appear to violate international agreements on treatment of refugees.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the office received Helms' letter and would review it.
The Washington Times last week said the Orioles had ``a policy'' of refusing to sign players who defect from Cuba because of last year's exhibition games.
The Washington Post subsequently quoted Angelos as saying that the team would be interested in scouting and signing Cuban defectors. ``But we would not solicit or encourage anyone to defect - rather we would discourage that,'' Angelos, an attorney, told the paper.
Angelos said the Orioles scouted pitcher Orlando ``El Duque'' Hernandez before he signed with the New York Yankees several years ago. Angelos told The Post that if a Cuban player were to defect and was a prospect, ``he would be judged on his own merit, without political implications.''
Asked about Helms' letter, Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said, ``As stated by our owner, there is no policy in regard to the hiring of Cuban ball players. It's a lot about nothing.''
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Copyright 2000 PRNewswire. All rights reserved.