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Viewing cable 09HAVANA492, C/NF) THE CHURCH AND TRANSITION IN CUBA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09HAVANA492 2009-08-11 17:05 2011-01-22 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0492/01 2231754
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 111754Z AUG 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4664
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T HAVANA 000492 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CCA AND INR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/10/2034 
TAGS: PINR PGOV SCUL CU
SUBJECT: (C/NF) THE CHURCH AND TRANSITION IN CUBA 
(C-AL9-01566) 
 
REF: STATE 80209 
 
Classified By: Chief of Mission Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (c) and
 (d)

1.  (SBU) This cable is in response to reftel.  We will also keep the questions in mind as we continue to meet with relevant contacts. 
 
2.  (C/NF) QUESTION A:  ARE CHURCH OFFICIALS CULTIVATING
CUBAN PROFESSIONALS SUCH AS DOCTORS, ENGINEERS, ACCOUNTANTS, PROJECT DIRECTORS, ETC?  IF SO, HOW?  WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF COURTING PROFESSIONALS? WHO IS DIRECTING THIS APPROACH?  ARE THESE ACTIVITIES COORDINATED FROM THE CHURCH HIERARCHY, OR 
DESIGNED INDEPENDENTLY BY PARISHES? 

(C/NF) POST RESPONSE:  We do not see evidence of such 
targeted proselytizing.  The church hierarchy, from the
Cardinal on down to parish priests, complains that emigration 
decimates the ranks of the laity and that they have to engage 
in constant recruitment merely to replace those laity who 
emigrate.  We have no reason to believe that those efforts
target professionals in particular. 

3.  (C/NF) QUESTION B:  ARE CHURCH MEMBERS RUNNING
PROFESSIONAL TRAINING CLASSES?  IF SO, WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING ARE PARISHES PROVIDING (I.E. FOREIGN LANGUAGES, CRITICAL THINKING, BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND DELEGATION, WESTERN PHILOSOPHY, WESTERN POLITICAL THOUGHT, PUBLIC SPEAKING, ETC.)? 

(C/NF) POST RESPONSE:  We have seen several examples of 
parishes and at least one convent that provide training in 
computers and foreign languages.  (Note:
denominations have similar activities. End Note.) 
XXXXXXXXXXXX also tells us he does some training at his parish in
Santiago de Cuba.  Computer training is the most common.  The
San Juan de Letran church in Vedado has a monthly lecture
series on theological issues that attracts 100 or more, 
mainly university-age, participants.  The Mission to the
Order of Malta provides equipment (projector, video camera, 
etc.) for some workshops promoting spiritual cinema. 
Otherwise, we are not familiar with churches that run the 
type of courses mentioned in reftel.

4.  (C/NF) QUESTION C:  ARE LOWER-LEVEL CUBAN CLERGY AND LAY PEOPLE PROVIDING TRAINING AND/OR CONDUCTING ACTIVITIES NOT APPROVED BY THE HIERARCHY? HOW ARE THESE PEOPLE IDENTIFIED? 
THROUGH CHURCH ACTIVITIES? FROM SCHOOLS? ARE INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT PREVIOUS ENTREPRENEURIAL OR POLITICAL SKILLS BEING TRAINED?  HOW LONG HAVE THESE ACTIVITIES BEEN TAKING PLACE? 

(C/NF) POST RESPONSE:  The classes of which we are aware are 
offered to all parishioners on a first-come, first-served
basis.  These are mostly modest efforts.  These programs go 
back at least several years.  Our experience with contacts is 
that these programs are known to the Church hierarchy and 
that in many cases the hierarchy provides "cover" for such activities with the relevant Government of Cuba (GOC) authorities. 

5.  (C/NF)  QUESTION D:  DOES ANY EVIDENCE EXIST TO SUGGEST THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS SEEKING TO MEDIATE A DIALOGUE IN CUBA'S CURRENT POLITICAL CONTEXT BETWEEN INDEPENDENT CIVIL SOCIETY AND STATE-ASSOCIATED INTELLECTUALS BY "HOSTING" INTERVIEWS WITH THE LATTER GROUP IN CHURCH PUBLICATIONS--SUCH AS THE HAVANA ARCHDIOCESAN MAGAZINE ESPACIO LAICAL (E.G. THE 2009 ISSUE NUMBER ONE ARTICLES INVOLVING ECONOMIST OMAR EVERLENY PEREZ AND POLITICAL SCIENTIST CARLOS ALZUGARAY)?
(C/NF) POST RESPONSE:  We've seen articles as described in reftel in both Espacio Laical and in Palabra Nueva, which recently ran a two-part series that essentially was a point/counterpoint between Orlando Marquez of Palabra Nueva and Rafael Hernandez, the editor of Temas.  Post believes these articles are oriented toward creating space and legitimacy for the Catholic Church as a legitimate interlocutor in Cuban societal issues and are not aimed at fostering a broader debate between GOC-affiliated intellectuals and broader civil society.  In fact, we have not seen any evidence that the Catholic Church is specifically reaching out to independent civil society in Cuba. 
 
-------- 
Comments 
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6.  (C/NF) The Catholic Church is slowly increasing the scope of the activities it is willing and able to conduct in Cuba. The relief work of Caritas and various parishes after the 2008 hurricanes has earned the Church some additional street credibility.  Some parishes also offer soup kitchens, medicines, and some form of parochial education for children, all of which are at risk since they technically compete with the Cuban Government's desire for complete control over the provision of social services.  The Church goes to great lengths to keep a low profile and stay out of any public discussions that may be deemed political, or certainly counter-revolutionary.  For years, the Church has worked to
distance itself from well-known opposition figures who are also devout Catholics such as Oswaldo Paya and Dagoberto Valdes.  As such, any activities the Church may be carrying out to prepare for a post-Castro Cuba are not being shared either from the pulpit or in our private discussions with Church officials. 
FARRAR