Letter from Bishop José McLoughlin:
Dear friends in Christ,
At present, Cuba is experiencing its most significant protests since the early 1990s. Aggravated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, many protestors, frustrated by the country’s struggle to combat the coronavirus and resulting poor conditions for many residents, are calling for the resignation of current President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Facing a lack of access to food and other necessary supplies, lack of communication, and deadly violence plaguing the streets, most people fear for their well-being.
The country is also facing its most challenging economic crisis in years. With the loss of income from tourism in 2020 and 2021 and recent government changes in the monetary system, many Cubans are jobless and hungry. With the reimposition of strict U.S. sanctions against Cuba in 2020, the protests have been described by president Biden as a “clarion call for freedom,” as many Cubans argue to end the US embargo in Cuba. The culmination of these challenges has left Cuba in one of its greatest economic crises since the 1950s.
As many of you know, this is deeply personal for me. My mother and her family are from Cuba. My mother escaped the Communist regime on January 28, 1961, leaving her house in Santiago by train the day before at 7PM – dates that will be forever etched into her mind. I still have family that lives in Cuba to this day. My family and so many Cubans have suffered deeply as a part of this six decade old regime, a situation only complicated by the pandemic and the economic collapse brought on by the government’s changing of the nation’s monetary system. What many of you are seeing in the news I have received as first hand reports from my family and that of our sister, the bishop of Cuba, the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio.
What we are witnessing is something we have not seen in decades: people taking to the streets of Cuba. As I hear from my family and from Bishop Griselda, the situation is in fact dire. There is deep suffering among the people of Cuba. I have been in communication with Bishop Griselda as recently as today, and in the letter that she shared with me, she described the emotional, spiritual, and physical toll that this situation has taken on Cuba.
“El domingo 11 de julio en diversas ciudades del país tuvieron lugar actos de protesta por la difícil situación económica junto con la sanitaria que está viviendo nuestro pueblo. A partir de la implementación del Ordenamiento Económico, a principios de este año, así como otras medidas de carácter restrictivo que se han sumado a esta realidad, han agravado la crisis que se venía arrastrando desde mucho tiempo atrás, hasta llegar a situaciones límites en la actualidad. Ha generado incertidumbre, frustración, agobio y desesperación a partir de la permanente carencia de los productos básicos alimenticios y carencia de medicinas entre otros infortunios. Todos nosotros estamos experimentando un creciente deterioro emocional, mental, físico y espiritual. El Salario medio se ha visto devaluado dramáticamente, por otra parte los productos más importantes se ofertan solamente en las nuevas tiendas por divisas extranjeras. Las plantas generadoras de electricidad han salido de su funcionamiento por diferentes roturas dando lugar a cortes del suministro eléctrico, lo cual añadió más inquietud en la población en pleno verano.”
“On Sunday, July 11, protests took place in various cities of the country due to the difficult economic situation along with the health that our people are experiencing. Since the implementation of the Economic Regulation, at the beginning of this year, as well as other restrictive measures that have added to this reality, they have aggravated the crisis that had been dragging on for a long time, until reaching extreme situations in the present. It has generated uncertainty, frustration, overwhelm and despair from the permanent lack of basic food products and lack of medicines, among other misfortunes. All of us are experiencing increasing emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual decline. The average salary has been dramatically devalued, on the other hand the most important products are only offered in the new stores for foreign currencies. Electricity generating plants have gone out of operation due to various breaks, leading to power outages, which added more concern to the population in the middle of summer.”
And yet, she also reminds us that we must continue to seek understanding amongst all people.
“Todo Ser Humano es imagen y semejanza de Dios, por lo cual tiene la dignidad debida y un carácter sagrado. La vida es el don más preciado. Y el exhorta a que prime la razón, la cordura y la responsabilidad. El camino debe ser construido por todos los cubanos y cubanas. Siempre habrá divergencias, opiniones diversas, diferentes pensamientos, ahí está la riqueza y la integralidad de ser un Pueblo. Es preciso poner en alto el valor del Diálogo para buscar el entendimiento y vías de solución. Asimismo exhorta a las Autoridades pertinentes a que promuevan acciones para contener toda violencia y alcanzar la paz. Es inadmisible el enfrentamiento entre cubanos.”
“Every Human Being is the image and likeness of God, for which he has due dignity and a sacred character. Life is the most precious gift. And he urges that reason, sanity and responsibility prevail. The road must be built by all Cuban men and women. There will always be divergences, diverse opinions, different thoughts, there is the richness and integrity of being a People. It is necessary to raise the value of Dialogue to seek understanding and ways of solving. Likewise, it exhorts the pertinent Authorities to promote actions to contain all violence and achieve peace. The confrontation between Cubans is inadmissible.”
I have reached out to leaders within The Episcopal Church to find ways, as I always have, to assist to our brothers and sisters in Cuba. Once I am informed of specific ways in which we can help, I will share that information with the diocese. I have expressed our support and love to Bishop Griselda and the Diocese of Cuba, and will continue to do so as we seek more concrete ways to extend our love and care.
I ask your prayers – for my family, for our companion diocese, for my dear friend Bishop Griselda, and for all the people of Cuba.