Cuba religious freedom

Cuban president Raül Castro confirms right of Cubans

to both religious belief and Communist Party membership

Believing in God doesn't make you a second class citizen ' … all Cubans, without exception, are equal before the law'

President Castro was speaking at a meeting of the 7th Ordinary Session of the 7th Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power (Parliament)

02 August 2011 HAVANA Cuba — I am now going to refer to a painful incident caused by errors in the implementation of cadre policy and attitudes toward religion, which prompted the unjust replacement of a compañera in a position in which she was working and achieving good results.

Upon approaching this issue publicly my objective is to repair this injustice and, in passing, to offer an eloquent example of the damage inflicted on persons and the Revolution itself by obsolete concepts, also against the law, still rooted in the mentality of more than a few leaders at all levels.

The abovementioned compañera, whose identity, workplace and even province I shall not reveal, not for the sake of useless secrecy, but out of respect for her privacy, is of modest origins, married and the mother of two, all three being members of the Party, as is her already retired husband.

With an outstanding work history, she became the victim of the dominant mentality at distinct levels of the Party and state, because of professing religious beliefs and on occasions, attending services at the church in her locality.

It was considered dishonest that she, as a member of the Party and an administrative cadre, had not mentioned her religiosity – something on the other hand that she was not obliged to do and which constitutes a flagrant violation of citizens’ rights as endorsed in the Constitution of the Republic, whose Article 43 on this subject states:

"The state establishes the right won by the Revolution that citizens, regardless of race, skin color, gender, religious belief, national origin and any other factor used in detriment to human dignity:

"… Have access, according to their merits and capacities, to all positions and jobs in the state and public administration sector and in the production and provision of services…"

Then the decision to dismiss her from her position was masked by the implementation of the measure "released for renewal of contract," on the pretext that although her work showed magnificent results, there were no promotion possibilities on the horizon and thus she should give her position to another compañero.

To further complicate the situation, they instructed her not to mention the religious issue in her workplace or in the Party nucleus during the assessment of her replacement.

All of that happened in February of this year; she began to work in another entity, losing 40% of her salary in the process, continued to be a member of the Party and silently resigned herself to the pain of the injustice committed, until – having studied the central report to the 6th Congress – on April 17, the day after the Congress began, she decided to send a complaint to the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, after which an investigation was initiated which corroborated everything that she stated.

Of course, the compañera, if she so wishes, must be reinstated to her previous position, as was agreed in the 2nd Plenum of the Central Committee this past July 30 and, over and above her absolutely personal decision, these words should serve as an act of moral vindication.

Now, what can be learned from this bitter experience and the damage done to a Cuban family by attitudes based on an archaic mentality, fed by simulation and opportunism? More than once, I have stated that our own worst enemy is not imperialism but our own errors and that these, if they are deeply and honestly analyzed, can be transformed into lessons in order not to fall into them again. Thus we have to review all aspects of this narrow and exclusionary vision in a definitive way, and adjust it to the reality which dates from the 4th Congress [of the Party] in 1991, changing the interpretation of the statutes which limited revolutionaries with beliefs from membership of the organization, and now those of the 6th Congress of the Party.

Many years ago our Revolution overcame the scenes of confrontation with some of the religious institutions, a stage during which both parties committed excesses of greater or lesser magnitude. We are also aware of the enemy’s aspirations to foment confrontation and distrust between believers and the revolutionary process, calculations which have proved themselves erroneous because, from the outset, the vast majority of Cubans from modest backgrounds with religious beliefs supported the Revolution.

To anyone who is in any doubt about that, I would recommend that they read the Bush (Junior) Plan for transition in Cuba, which we know has not been abolished, and the role to be allocated to all the religious organizations in its subversive strategy against our country and which, despite the failure reaped, we know that these intentions have not been renounced.

On this point Fidel himself has stated a lot over many years and most recently in the central report to the Party Congress, in which the call was made, and I quote, "To continue eliminating any prejudice which impedes unity in virtue and in the defense of our Revolution among all Cubans, believers or not…"

For that reason I do not consider it necessary to go any further into the issue, but I will just emphasize that attitudes like those criticized here endanger our principal weapon for consolidating independence and national sovereignty; in other words, the unity of the nation.

That act demonstrates, once again, that the greatest obstacle which we face in terms of fulfilling the agreements of the 6th Congress is the psychological barrier created by inertia, resistance to change, simulation or double standards, indifference and insensitivity, a barrier which we are obliged to surmount with constancy and firmness; in the first place, leaders of the Party, state and government in the different national, provincial and municipal bodies.

We shall be patient but also determined in the face of the resistances to change, whether these are conscious or unconscious. I warn that any bureaucratic resistance to the strict fulfillment of the Congress agreements, massively supported by the people, is useless.

I have never been in favor of pressure or of abrupt changes, I would eminently prefer to reason, convince, educate and join the debate than punish, but in the face of violations of the constitution and established legality there is no alternative but to resort to the Attorney General’s Office and the courts, as we have already begun to do, in order to ensure that offenders are held accountable, whoever they might be, because all Cubans, without exception, are equal before the law.

Without a change of mentality, we will not be capable of making the changes needed to guarantee the sustainability – or, what is the same – irrevocability of the socialist nature and of the political and social system enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.

Let us clear our minds of stupidities of all kinds, don’t forget that the first decade of the 21st century has already ended, and it is time to do so.

In the closing words of the day before yesterday to the members of the Central Committee and invitees, touching on this theme and proposing that these words should be said here, in the form that they have, I recalled that this compañera was born – according to the data – in January of 1953. I went on to recall that that was the year of the assault on the Moncada [Garrison] and I said to the members of the Central Committee, "I didn’t go to the Moncada for that." (Applause)

In the same way, we recalled that July 30, the day of that meeting, was the 54th anniversary of the assassination of Frank País and his faithful companion Raúl Pujol.

I met Frank in Mexico, and saw him again in the Sierra [Maestra]; I do not remember ever having known a soul as pure as that, so courageous, so revolutionary, so noble and modest, and addressing one of those responsible for the injustice that was committed.

I said to him, "Frank believed in God and practiced his religion, as far as I know, he never stopped doing so. What would all of have done without Frank País?

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