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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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'.
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.