Vatican Radio Notes Castro's "Heavy-handedness"

Cuban Bars Observers From Meeting With Dissidents

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2005 ( Vatican Radio referred to Fidel Castro’s “heavy-handedness” in expelling several European journalists and parliamentarians from Cuba.

In two notes, published on Saturday and today, the papal broadcasting station reported the news of the meeting of Cuban opposition groups, held in Havana, as well as the measures taken by the government against international observers to that meeting.

In statements to Vatican Radio, Luigi Geninazzi, correspondent for the Catholic newspaper Avvenire at the event, said that the meeting of dissidents was significant, although “it did not represent the whole of the opposition.”

According to Geninazzi, the Europeans’ expulsion follows the “typical line” adopted by Castro. Now the ball is in Europe’s court, said the envoy.

“It must decide what to do,” Geninazzi said. “For months there has been a sort of battle of wills between the European Commission, which is favorable to the removal of sanctions, and the European Parliament, which has criticized this opening.”

What is necessary is “to introduce fundamental liberties” in Cuba, “beginning with the press’s freedom of expression,” he told Vatican Radio.

Looking ahead

“Obviously Fidel Castro will not accept these freedoms,” the correspondent continued. “But it is important to raise them so that the international community cannot be accused of looking the other way, namely, of seeing violations of human rights only in one part of the world.

“There are 11 million Cubans who want to be treated as citizens, with their rights.”

The journalist believes that “the more responsible sector of Cuban opposition is already preparing — now — for the period after Castro. It is doing so with two key words: liberation from the Communist regime but, at the same time, national reconciliation.”

The Catholic Church, he added, “enjoys freedom of worship, but it does not have or has very little freedom of education and the possibility of having its own means of communication is very reduced.”

The Italian newspaper’s correspondent said, for example, that Cardinal Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana, “was able to speak for five minutes on Cuban television, after John Paul II’s death, while Fidel Castro spoke about the Pope for four hours, but without ever mentioning that he was the head of the Church.”

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