Febrero 1999

Cuba: a Year After the Pope. Return of the Iron Curtain?




Tourism remains the most important growth sector in the Cuban economy. In the current year of 1999 Cuba is expecting 1.7 million tourists, 21 percent more than in 1998. In that year tourism grew by 17 percent compared to 1997. According to official figures the revenue from tourism was 1.8 billion dollars in 1997. This year the revenue from tourism exceeded that from the export of sugar for the first time. Most tourists by far come from Canada, followed by Italy, Germany, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Argentina. Most goods for the tourist industry still have to be imported, which means that of every dollar that a tourist brings in only 30 cents will eventually remain.

Disconsolately, Pablo looks up to the five stars on the new hotel Melía Habana. "Sad business," he says. For five months he worked on the construction site of this luxury hotel and now he can only get a look at it from the outside. After it opens its doors it becomes impossible for an ordinary Cuban to get into a building like this one, even when you built it yourself. Unless perhaps in the company of a foreigner or with a huge wad of dollars in his pocket, impossible conditions for a construction worker in Cuba. Pablo makes about 7 dollars a month. "Just imagine! I myself have been living with my family in an emergency house ever since the hurricane, because my own house was washed away. And here I am helping to build luxury rooms all day long that an ordinary Cuban couldn't ever dream of. Then a couple of my own countrymen are posted at the entrance to tell me I cannot go in there."

A special case in point is medical tourism. It is good for the country's image and moreover it brings in strong currency. It is therefore strongly encouraged by Cuba, which promotes itself particularly with therapies for diseases that are hard or impossible to cure in other parts of the world. The elderly doctor Orfilio Pelaez, for instance, has become famous because of his therapy against 'retinosis pigmentaria', an eye disease that in time leads to blindness. In Miramar doctor Carlos Miyares presides over a clinic for 'vitiligio', a skin disease affecting pigmentation. Patients discharged from the clinic are enthusiastic.

Less enthusiastic are those Cubans suffering from diseases that a lot of foreigners suffer from as well. In the interest of strong currencies coming in hospitals give foreigners preference over Cubans, as evidenced by the experiences of famous psychotherapist and neurologist Hilda Molina. At the beginning of the nineties she was director of a psychiatric hospital that is unique in the world for offering various types of existing therapies in combination.

The success of this formula led to an influx of foreign patients. When Molina was forced to reject Cubans so that foreigners could be admitted, she resigned in protest. She works for an organization for independent doctors, is regularly harassed by the police and has been made a social outcast.

Support for Castro?

In answer to the eternal question of how much support Castro has left, most analysts say an estimated 10 percent. For the older generation the percentage would be higher, and lower for the younger generation. According to American diplomats, the Cuban government does not care one way or the other whether there is support or not. Their main concern is for the acceptance of the strict government control over the population. Diplomats from other countries suspect that no one in Cuba actually believes in 'The Revolution' anymore. It is believed that only government officials still hold to the official position by virtue of their profession. Diplomats from the British embassy still give Castro twelve years to live, based on life expectancy tables and possible diseases he may have.

The Catholic Church

As said earlier in this report, the Pope's visit did create a number of openings, but has not resulted in structural liberties for the Church. The majority of the clergy feel no progress has been achieved. The Church still does not have free access to the media, printing presses or education; traveling possibilities for the clergy are still limited. Although there is liberty of worship (anyone can go to Mass if he or she wants to), there is no real freedom of religion. Members of the Church say that official policy after the Pope's visit aimed to neutralize its effect as much as possible; in Cuba this is referred to as 'depapaficación' ('depapalization'). The openings that have been brought about over the last year are indeed mainly owing to initiatives by the Church, in spite of restrictive government policy.

It should be mentioned that expectations for the visit ran very high. The visit was seen by many as an overture to radical changes, a wave of democratization, the release of political prisoners, normalization of relations with the United States, and the lift of the embargo. These things did not happen. The effect was that, after the euphoria of the visit, hope crumbled relatively fast.

Especially the lower echelons of Church hierarchy have vented this criticism that the Pope's visit has not really changed things. Overall the bishops have expressed themselves in more positive terms, yet the higher spheres are also in doubt. "The regime used to be an iron hand in a silk glove. Now it's an iron hand in a little more silk," said one of the bishops. The Dutch embassy, which maintains close relations with the papal nuncio in Cuba, has given a first-hand confirmation that relations between Church and State aren't really heartfelt.

The Place of the Church in Society

The fear of practicing one's religion has lessened, which is evidenced by the strong growth in the number of churchgoers. The older ones among them recall the times they "went to Mass with an iron rod", to feel safer from the intimidating remarks of party supporters pestering them on their way to church. One priest recalls that in the seventies, when you had a church wedding, you got a summary dismissal the very next day. That is all in the past now. The Cuban bishops recognize that church attendance has dropped compared to the days before and immediately after the papal visit, when Cubans were really going to church 'en masse'. But this was to be expected and churches are still fuller than ever.

According to the Cardinal of Havana, Jaime Ortega, the growth of the Church is exemplified by the return of religious processions, also in smaller towns, on the respective patrons' holy days. These processions take place with an "absolute casualness" and are permitted by the authorities. Another remarkable fact is that participation in religious gatherings is no longer just for the older generation. It used to be that the majority of churchgoers were over fifty years old, but now many young people go to Mass too. A lot of parishes conducted an active recruitment campaign in the past year, where they went from door to door to talk to people and invite them to pay the church a visit when they have the occasion. This campaign was started in 1997. The Church has been criticized for giving away free candy and small gifts to children on Christian holidays. This was seen as a form of buying converts.

Jorge is the priest of a small parish east of Havana. Five years ago he got permission to come from Spain to work in Cuba and he is doing well. He exerts himself for getting more young people involved in the Church, and with great resourcefulness. Annual highlights are the "posadas" around Christmas, small processions of children going through the streets. The first time one was held, it caused huge problems. "We had gathered hundreds of children in this little park here, and then the police ended it right there because I hadn't applied for a permit. But it's no use to apply for a permit," says Jorge, "because you don't get a reply." Since then he has taken a different approach. The children still are sent into the streets, but not all at the same time. They walk in small groups of eight or ten. Since then they've had no more problems. "In this way, you keep learning to find the right form. And this particular solution is even better in the end, because with small groups the children are walking in more places in the neighborhood at the same time."

The Church in Cuba is one of the few places in Cuban society where people do not have to deal with politics. In a country where the state has penetrated into every aspect of life, up to and including private life, to many the church is an island in a sea of totalitarianism. To a certain degree the Church also fulfills the role that in other countries is played by social interest groups. Now that there are frequent talks between Church and State, the Church has become an important link in the communication between population and government.

The growth of the Church in Cuba produces quite some problems of logistics. The shortage of priests, laymen, sacristans and other staff is distressing. At the moment the average number of priests is estimated to be 1 in every 56,000 inhabitants, and in some places the ratio is 1 to 80,000. According to bishop Pedro Meurice Estíu of Santiago de Cuba 1 priest for every 600 would be ideal. This is illustrative of the long road that the Church has still to go. "This Church had until now gone through a very slow growth process and was absolutely not geared to the massive influx of believers we are witnessing today," says bishop Meurice.

The same problem applies to the number of churches. Since the revolution not a single one more has been built and a great number of them are in very bad keep. Some parishes are forced to take refuge in private houses to hold service, once in a while "Mass is said under a tree," says Meurice. Absence of private transportation and the lack of parish houses are other pressing problems. Whatever means there are, are working at full capacity. To a certain extent the growth of the Church is hampered by its own logistic shortcomings.

The Church does not have access to official education. Its great wish is for some sort of supplementary role, for instance in the form of teaching classes in religion at state schools. Fulfillment of this wish is still a long way off. Party officials argued recently that "given the enormous diversity of religions in Cuba it would be inexpedient to admit only one of them into the educational system." According to Isidro Gomez from the Department of Religious Affairs of the Communist Party "the Catholic Church thinks it is the only religion, but it is not." Permission for setting up Catholic schools is an even more indiscussable matter.

Reference to the existence of other Churches such as the Protestant Churches and Afro-Cuban religions has become an argument for denying the Catholic Church certain rights, or to put off decisions about granting them. Gomez says, for instance, that he can see no real objections to greater access to the media: "We are looking at how we can create the space for that," and he added that other Churches will then of course have to get the same treatment. However, he sees possibilities for later this year.

Opportunities for the Church

In the year of the papal visit the Cuban government made a number of concessions to the Catholic Church. For one thing, Christmas was recognized as an official holiday again. It had not been since 1970. In November a good forty clergymen received permission to settle in Cuba (the same number at least are still waiting for their visas). At least two of them are Cuban exiles who were allowed re-entrance to Cuba. On September 8th an important procession was permitted to be held, that of the "Virgin de la Caridad", in which at least 10,000 believers participated. On the same day Cardinal Ortega was permitted to give a broadcast speech, as at Christmas.

In the provinces other bishops also got permission for radio speeches. In Havana a second seminary has been opened and further a considerable number of churches are under restoration. In a number of places new churches are being built.

These developments indicate that the increase of latitude for the Church did not come to a halt when the Pope left. The Cuban television news still shows clips of the Pope's visit from time to time and Fidel Castro is not hesitant about quoting the Pope every once in a while at public appearances.

Yet these concessions do not at all suggest a structural change of policy. They concern matters that the Cuban government simply was not able to get around. After a visit from the Pope it is obvious that the most important procession of the year or a speech by the Cardinal will not be prohibited. These minimal 'concessions' at the occasional important moment, such as the day of the Holy Virgin or Christmas, look more like incidental sops. On a slightly less important day, namely that of the Virgin de la Merced, no permission was given for a procession. Moreover on the eve of the procession of December 8th fourteen dissidents were arrested just for extra precaution. During the procession itself plain-clothes policemen prevented at least twenty Catholic activists to take part in the festivities. Furthermore, the significance of Ortega's radio speeches was played down by the fact that they were on 'Radio Enciclopedia', a music station that practically nobody listens to. The Cuban government has neglected to amend the most obvious of matters. According to members of the Church the Cardinal has a cellular phone subscription in the name of a Spanish nun, because as a Cuban he is not allowed to take out a lease in his own name.

Publications by the Church

All over the country the Church has begun to issue its own publications. The weekly "Vida Cristiana" has a nation-wide circulation of 85,000 copies. Further, all fourteen dioceses each publish their own periodical. The most widely-circulated and best-known of these is the monthly "Palabra Nueva" in Havana in an edition of about 10,000 copies. This publication, now in its seventh year of print, received the annual award of the International Catholic Press Union in Paris last September. Next to Church matters this magazine also gives attention to social issues. In spite of this it has never been subject to censorship, says editor in chief Orlando Marquez, nor to government complaints. In addition, the Cardinal has a publication of his own, "Aquí la Iglesia". By now a lot of parishes have their own organs moreover, and some ten publications by the Evangelical Church have gone into circulation. The use of video materials is allowed as well.

The quarterly "Vitral", issued in a circulation of approximately 3,000 copies in the diocese of Pinar del Rio, deserves some special attention. Vitral enjoys prestige, not least because it is more outspoken on social issues than are other publications. The driving force behind this periodical is layman Dagoberto Valdes, who has, for that matter, paid a price for this attitude in the form of intimidation, personal troubles and dismissal from his job. In December 1998 Valdes was appointed member of the papal commission for Justitia et Pax in Rome. This appointment is generally considered as recognition for Valdes's work. At the same time it broadens his freedom of movement, because in this function he is required to travel to Rome on a regular basis. The Cuban government can hardly deny him a visa for this purpose.

All these publications are purely religious in nature, usually not a single word is mentioned about politics. This does not mean that social issues do not get their due too. For instance, the periodical Vida Cristiana has called attention to more or less sensitive issues over the last months, such as the rise of crime and the low level of wages "that one cannot possibly live on".

Unfavorable comments have also been run on donations of medicine made by Caritas that are believed to be disappearing somewhere in the bureaucratic process, and on obstacles put in the way of the Church that disable it to distribute food in an effective way.

Many of the new publications are continuations of the activities that were displayed during the preparations for the papal visit. Many also refer to what have become some of the Pope's most famous words: "No tengan miedo" ("Have no fear"). This advice has really inspired a lot of people to conquer their fear and take initiatives that before had been very difficult or even unthinkable, church officials state.

The growth in the number of Church publications entails a direct and uncensored communication to the public that is unprecedented in Cuba. It is perceived as a great advance towards more liberty of movement for the Church. The more politically inclined activists within the Church hope that hereby an opportunity has been created to also vent some cautious criticism of the administration in the future.

One form of control over the publications has not disappeared though: the Church still cannot have printing presses at their own disposal and only a very limited number of photocopiers. Very strict limitations are imposed on the use of the latter. The Church will for instance only sell printed copies of its publications and will never make even one extra Xerox of them, even when the printed copies have run out; this is illustrative not only of the restrictions, but also of the fear of losing this valuable machine.

The Strategy of the Catholic Church

The strategy of the Catholic Church is directed at a slow but certain expansion of the freedom of movement by means of a very compliant, diplomatic attitude towards the Cuban government. Bishop Augustin Roman in Miami, who keeps in close touch with the bishops on Cuba, is of the opinion that the Church is on the right course. He compares the Church to what the Cubans call a "comején"; a microscopic creature resembling a woodworm that almost invisibly eats away at the foundation and the walls of a house. "And when a storm blows down the house everyone says 'what a terrible storm'. But the true cause was the comején."

The bishops say that this is the only way to accomplish anything in Cuba. Cardinal Ortega gives the admittance of forty priests to Cuba as an example. "The reason was not the papal visit, or a request of a cardinal in Rome, the reason was that we had direct talks with the government, in which we clearly explained our criteria and our needs", said Ortega. Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Cienfuegos is in agreement with this. "It does not seem like much when we compare our achievements to our aspirations, but put side by side with what we had five years ago, it seems important to us." And: "These measures are like dots, but the repetition of dots can little by little form a line."

Bishop Meurice of Santiago adds: "The special in time becomes normal. When these measures are repeated, then the climate that emerged from the atheism can be broken." Monseigneur Meurice is considered one of the more outspoken bishops of Cuba, an image that is mostly a consequence of his welcoming speech for the pope when he visited Santiago de Cuba last year: "I introduce you to a growing number of Cubans who have confused the country with a party, the nation with the historical process of the last decennia, and the culture with an ideology."

'The relationship between Church and State has improved in the past year', says cardinal Ortega. There are direct talks on all levels. As chairman of the Cuban conference of bishops, cardinal Ortega spoke directly with Fidel Castro on several occasions. In October last year Ortega was succeeded as chairman by Adolfo Rodriguez, bishop of Camaguey, and he met with Castro as well. Rodriguez is the only bishop in Cuba who holds this position since the beginning of the Revolution. He is known as an active bishop with much consideration for human rights. His appointment as chairman is considered a recognition of his work, and that a year before his retirement.

Cardinal Ortega: 'The preparations for the papal visit made it necessary for State and Church to engage in discussion, and now the ice is broken, we have gotten to know each other personally, and a certain amount of trust has grown. This is the basis for an ongoing dialogue.' The bishops compare the Cuban State with a layman under instruction. Ortega: "The Church does not pursue an immediate goal, but rather a normalization of its life within a modern state."

Criticism on the bishops

Both outside of and within the Church, the modest attitude of the bishops gives rise to the criticism that they do not sufficiently speak up to the Cuban government. The Church should make more use of the unique fact that, as the only institution in Cuba, it has the advantage of relative independence. It must not turn its back on the people. It is part of the Church's task to stand up for the oppressed, and especially for members of the Church that get into trouble with the Cuban regime. Or, as one of the priests puts it: "El país se está cayendo, la iglesia se está callando", the country collapses, and the Church is silent.

The Church prepares for a future free society by training a few hundred laymen in Havana and Santiago each year. Critics say this is not sufficient and that the Church is lighting candles to the sun with this approach. Many of these laymen leave the country as soon as through their better education and their access to the dollar circuit they get the chance. They see too little perspective of a fulfilling position within the Cuban Church, whereas outside Cuba more opportunities for them and their family present themselves. Precise numbers are not available, but observers within the Church speak of "unos cuantos", a considerable number. The bishop of Santiago, Pedro Meurice, has been trying to stop this 'exodus' for years by appealing to the sense of responsibility of the laymen: "The Church will never leave Cuba, so stay if possible".

A very outspokenly critical tone towards the Church comes from Father Francisco Santana in Miami. He was forced to leave Cuba in 1961 and has worked in the United States, Belgium and Honduras. Since the late seventies he is one of the driving forces behind La Ermita de la Caridad, a catholic meeting place for Cuban exiles in Miami. Via Radio Martí he makes a weekly program "El Cubano y su Fe", the Cuban and his faith. Santana is a critic of Ortega's policy. "In time it becomes clear that the Cuban regime remains as totalitarian as before. By staying this passive, with the papal visit the Church creates an image of collaboration." Santana, who hopes to visit Cuba before Castro makes his exit, was refused a visa at the time of the papal visit. He now hopes one of the Cuban bishops will invite him, as yet to no avail.

The question is whether the Church has sufficient social basis at its disposal to adopt a demanding attitude. Another mass deportation as at the time of the well-known "Covadonga" in 1962 would no longer be conceivable. Hundreds of priests were rounded up and sent to Spain on the Spanish ship. But the Communist Party still tends to lose its patience when priests are too involved in what the party considers to be "political" activities.

One of the most recent cases is Patrick Sullivan, an American priest in Villa Clara, who was called back to Havana by the Church authorities in 1998 to prevent him from being deported. Party officials accused him of setting up 'small counterrevolutionary groups'. Spokespersons of the Church say Sullivan was guilty of nothing more than put up in his church the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and appeal to the churchgoers to stand up for their rights. Sullivan did not resign to his transfer and as soon as his residence permit expired, the Church hierarchy chose to let him leave the country, rather than risk another confrontation with the state.

Church and Dissidence

The Church leaders prefer to keep their distance from 'enemies of the government'. The most important exponent of this course is cardinal Jaime Ortega. For instance, the dissidents that were arrested on the eve of the procession of September 8th did not get any support from the cardinal. Ortega is afraid to jeopardize the laboriously vested achievements in Cuba. To ensure the growth of the Church the opposition has to be ignored. The critical individual within the Church pays the price.

An example is the Christian dissident Oswaldo Payá. He leads the Christian liberation movement MCL and is one of the most prominent representatives of the Christian dissidence. As a result of his overt criticism on the government he is frequently being bothered. However, the more trouble he encounters, the less the Church will have to do with him. Payá's repeated requests to provide the pope with the opportunity to also talk with the Christian dissidence during his visit met with great opposition. Payá himself views the successes after the papal visit negatively: "Although some people speak of more space for the Church, no changes have been made either in legislation or in practice that enable citizens to appeal to the most fundamental rights".

Justicia et Pax

Part of the catholic Church that offers legal assistance to those who ask and cannot afford a lawyer. Or, as it is officially called: 'the promotion of justice and peace'. A lawyer aids a sister of Justicia et Pax in her tasks. Bishop Meurice of Santiago de Cuba is now the new chairman and that is gratifying. Cuba is the first socialist country where Justicia et Pax is active. However, the organization is still not officially recognized; it is merely tolerated. In the past year sympathy for the work of this organization has increased, but circumstances have not improved according to the employees.

The cases handled by Justicia et Pax concern prisoners (of conscience), people who have problems at work, but also common offenses such as theft, and so on. A typical example is a woman who was sentenced to three years of prison for shoplifting. Consequently, she cannot take care of her three children. Justicia et Pax attempts to negotiate a reduction of sentence or get it turned into a suspended sentence. Another example is a doctor who lost his official residence because he fell ill himself. His lease specified that he had to practice his profession in order to inhabit the house. As he was incapable of working he and his family were evicted, without being offered an alternative.

A small number of prisoners, strictly selected by the government, are allowed visits by priests. However, these visits are limited by all sorts of restrictive measures. It is still not permitted to read Mass. The government officials do not accept the Church as representative of the interests of political prisoners, chairman of Justicia et Pax Meurice says. The same applies to aid to non-prisoners. According to the organization's secretary, Felix Perez, in a year' time only 68 cases received assistance. This low number is the result of a shortage of people, not of a shortage of problems. The most important discussion partners in the negotiations are the Departamento de la Atención del Comité Central, a sort of complaints department with the Communist Party, and a similar department of the State Council, the Consejo el Estado. The most prominent obstacle is the government's position that in Cuba there simply are very few legal problems and that state organizations are capable of solving any problems that do arise. Justicia et Pax is in fact considered to be redundant.

Effects of the papal visit in Miami

The Catholic Church in Miami, aside from its shared ties with Cuba, is an important binding factor for the exiles. According to the Church this can be explained by the fact that the Church's symbols are the only ones that have not been claimed by the representatives of the communist party. The Cuban flag, heroes of Cuban history such as Felix Varela, and even the founder of the Cuban state José Martí have all been adopted by the current regime as [were they] socialist symbols that have paved the road to the absolute pinnacle of Cuban history: Fidel Castro. There is in fact only one figure that has not been co-opted in this process, namely the 'Holy Virgin Caridad del Cobre'.

The papal visit meant new hope to the Cuban exiles. Or, as one of the priests voiced it: "It created a magical moment". Many of the exiles closely followed the ceremonies during the visit on television. Never before did the American television devote this much attention to Cuba, in reports, interviews and of course coverage of the ceremonies, which led to emotional moments at times. Many a person never imagined the pope would ever visit Cuba and cried at the sight of someone other than his or her hated enemy at the square of the Revolution, addressing the masses. "For the first time it felt like Cuba for a small part belonged to us again", one of the exiles said.

Within the 'extreme groups' in Miami initially there was considerable resistance to the visit, that as they saw it would only lead to legitimizing Castro's regime. In 1993 campaigns to thwart the preparations for a possible papal visit had already been started. In retrospect, it seems the papal visit has had a reconciling effect especially for these groups. A tendency towards better understanding and rapprochement has grown between the Cubans in Miami and their compatriots in Cuba. The most extreme Cuban exiles in Miami have abandoned the notion of 'bringing a new government to Cuba' and now show themselves especially frustrated with the inadequate contact with dissidents on the island. Some of them they are poorly informed with respect to the situation in Cuba. This is not surprising considering the fact that most of them have not been to Cuba in years. They receive information at second or third hand or through telephone conversations with members of their families (that are often tapped).

Another important factor with respect to the rapprochement of exiles and the Cuban opposition is the death of Jorge Más Canosa, former chairman of the 'Cuban American National Foundation' (CANF). Many dissidents both in Miami and in Cuba do not regret this 'extremist' quitting the scene because he had a polarizing effect, within the community of exiles as well as on the relations between the exiles and the Cubans in Cuba. Cuban leaders in Miami (such as José Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue) feel Más Canosa was to a large extent guided by the Americans in his attitude towards Cuba. His death ended this era. A concrete example of the increased contact is the shared plan of a number of Cuban "NGOs" and organizations of exiles in Miami to organize an alternative meeting with independent groups from Cuba during the Ibero-American summit that will be held in October in Cuba. An initiative the feasibility of which should be doubted, though.

An example of the openness is an initiative of one of the Cuban youth organizations in Miami, the 'Directorio Revolucionario Democratico Cubano', that is aimed at a peaceful transition to democracy. They claim to distinguish themselves from traditional exile organizations by the aspiration to accomplish a change on Cuba from within, not directed from Miami that is. Members of this group, outside Cuba, are engaged in discussion with young people belonging to the official communist youth organization UJC, to get acquainted with each other's viewpoints. These young people stand out for their great optimism with respect to the possibility of a swift change in Cuba ('this year even') and the wish to return to Cuba after the turnaround, a wish that is less common among the older generation.

The recent liberalization of the American embargo is hardly a topic among the Cubans in Miami. According to bishop Román in Miami the Cubans do not care much for the politics concerned with the embargo. What they are interested in is whether their family in Cuba can keep the pot boiling. There is a small group that fiercely opposes the embargo and another small group is in favor of it. To the rest, politics are not the issue. Day-to-day living is.

Representatives of the Church in Havana regularly visit Miami, but the reverse is usually not possible. An exception was made last year for Father Rivas in Miami, exiled from Cuba since 1961. He visited Cuba last year for the first time and was received after 35 years of absence with veritable festivities. He had obviously not been forgotten. Not every priest wishes to return to Cuba though. Bishop Román will not go as long as 'the one who threw me out is in power'.

Humanitarian Aid

A large number of international organizations donate medicine, food and clothing to Cuba. The distribution of the goods is almost completely controlled by the Cuban government. The donating organizations do not have depositories of their own, nor do they possess the means to transport the goods, such as trucks. Although representatives of these organizations try to closely monitor these and beforehand agreements are made with respect to the use, the authorities have a decisive negotiating position. In the United States the humanitarian aid sparks off vehement discussions, as does anything that concerns Cuba. Opponents consider it a way to lengthen the life span of socialism and opt to harden the embargo.



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