At the Threshold (AtT) has a broad mandate to face the future of Christianity in this transitional age of secularization and globalization. One of the pressing matters has to do with the role of the church in societies undergoing significant change, especially in those cultures where the church has been viewed as out of step and even suppressed. AtT has taken a stand in favor of diplomacy with Cuba to work out national differences and enhance relations. Part of our hope is aimed at increased support for the church in Cuba. Thus, we choose to reciprocate the growing normalization regarding church-state relations in Cuban by offering our support for normalization of political and cultural relations. This includes taking a position to lift the embargo. The son of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Cuba under the Castro regime, Romi Gonzalez, offers his grasp of what the U.S. needs to do.
By Romi Gonzalez
Upon hearing that President Barack Obama had announced a major shift towards the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba, my initial feeling was one of relief, as if a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Then my thoughts turned to the recurring question – why has it taken so long?
The “burden” President Obama has lifted from many of us in the exile community has to do with freedom, particularly the freedom of expression.
Many Cuban exiles have recognized for years and years that the U.S. embargo and travel ban are failed policies that must be ended. We have come to recognize that these punitive relics from the cold war have done nothing to accomplish the regime change they were designed for. On the other hand, they have provided great benefits to powerful interest groups on both sides of the Florida straits and have handed Cuba an excuse for its glaring shortcomings. Meanwhile, it keeps the Cuban population in a wretched state while it awaits change. Anyone with any semblance of humanity must recognize that you can not allow the obsessive hatred of the demonized Fidel Castro to continue adversely impacting the lives of the 11 million persons stranded on that island. Engagement with China, Russia, Vietnam and others has worked. Why not Cuba (regardless of Florida’s electoral votes)? Although many Cuban-Americans in this country have understood this for years, they have silently “walked away from the discussion, lest they be branded as communists” or worse.
Certainly, the curtailment of freedom of thought and expression in the exile community has rivaled the excessive measures of the most oppressive days of the Castro regime. The anti-Castro extremists in the exile community have been ruthless. In Miami pro-engagement advocates have been the object of bombings, seen their businesses and homes burned and suffered a marginalization which has savaged careers and families. These tactics have been emulated in other cities with prominent Cuban-American communities. In New Orleans, a prominent banker’s life and job were threatened when he dared to announce a trade mission to Cuba. When I was asked to speak of the historical ties between New Orleans and Havana at Spring Hill College in Mobile during a Cuba Trade Conference, my residence was rolled in toilet paper two weekends in a row. Since I began visiting Cuba in the mid 1990’s, many of my Cuban friends have not spoken to me. The most vindictive even undermine the non-profit efforts I undertake.