Backroom deals? Church bowing to Communist government pressure? What's up with dat?
By Juan O. Tamayo | McClatchy NewspapersMIAMI — A Vatican expert on Cuba told U.S. diplomats in 2007 that Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega had pushed to shutter a highly regarded Roman Catholic magazine that often criticized the communist system, according to a State Department cable made available by WikiLeaks.
Cuba's government had wanted to close Vitral magazine for years but feared a backlash and so "must be happy because the Church did its dirty work for it," the expert noted. The publication wasn't closed, but its editor resigned in a huff and its content was toned down.
Ortega's spokesman denied in an email that the church had bowed to government pressures and said that although the Cuban government had complained about Vitral and other church publications, "the complaints never turned into requests for closures."
"It's not important if the fact is real or not, it's simply repeated even though there's no firsthand source that confirms it in public," spokesman Orlando Marquez wrote. "It is good to ask who benefits from this."
The cable sent to the State Department by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican also mentioned previously unconfirmed reports that Vatican officials at times had thought that Ortega, who also serves as the archbishop of Havana, was too friendly with Cuban ruler Raul Castro.
"Vatican officials have hinted in the past that Ortega has become too cozy with Castro," noted the cable, dated May 14, 2007, and classified as "secret." It was one of more than 250,000 State Department documents that WikiLeaks provided to McClatchy.
Ortega recently has won wide praise for his unprecedented talks with Castro, which helped win the release of about 115 political prisoners over the past year. But some critics have claimed for years that he'd failed to take a strong stance against human rights abuses. All but a dozen of the jailed dissidents were taken directly from prison to airplanes that flew them to Spain, in what critics have called a forced exile.
Vitral, founded in 1994 by the Diocese of Pinar del Rio in westernmost Cuba, was considered to be the best church publication on the island. Its name, which means stained-glass window, referred to the rainbow of opinions it published.