Wow. Finally. Some American bishops have strongly denounced trade with Castro’s Cuba, and even quoted Pope Francis in support of their tightly-reasoned argument. They did not mention Cuba specifically, since their comments were aimed at trade with a different part of the world, but , taking a cue from the Jesuits –who love to persuade indirectly — they have managed to promote a very thinly disguised argument against trading with the Castro regime. Call it stealth theology.
A Report on their diatribe against trading with Castro’s Cuba can be found in ETWN News. Below is a passage-by-passage exegesis of the text found at that web site:
Commenting on a proposed trade agreement among Pacific Rim nations, the U.S. bishops have said such agreements should defend human dignity, protect the environment and public heath, and promote “justice and peace.”
“We encourage you to join us in promoting these values and to evaluate any trade deal in light of them,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines said in a Jan. 16 letter to the leading members of the House and Senate committees on finance, which are considering whether to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Archbishop Wenski heads the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, while Bishop Pates heads the committee on international justice and peace).
This is wonderful. Yes, good God Almighty, yes, let’s all pray for the day when all nations promote these values. Imagine what a better place Cuba would be if its leaders would play by these rules. Unfortunately, all of their values and all of their policies run counter to “these values.”
So, there you have it: the bishops are saying that trading with Castro’s Cuba is morally questionable.
A government such as that run by the Castro dynasty, which owns everything and dictates severe limits to wages and profits, keeping all of its citizens in poverty and squalor – and which also violently punishes all dissent and denies workers the right to engage in collective bargaining– cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as a promoter of “justice and peace” or “human dignity.” As for public health and the environment: there, too, the Castro regime falls far short of meeting the values of the Catholic Church cited by Bishops Wenski and Pates.
The condemnation of the Castro regime becomes even more intense when Pope Francis himself is quoted.
The two bishops cited Pope Francis’ June 2013 message to the G-8 summit, in which the Pope said that economic and political actions must help provide people with “the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential.” “This is the main thing,” Pope Francis said. “In the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless.”
There you go! Could anyone condemn the Castro regime more aggressively than this?
Pope Francis, who cares for the poor and has lived among them, knows exactly what “the minimum wherewithal” is. In Castro’s Cuba, everyone earns wages that are far below the subsistence level. And, even after recent phony “reforms” that allow for a severely limited amount of self-employment, profits are so tightly regulated that the self-employed entrepreneurs earn no more than anyone else. The government’s policy in Castro’s Cuba is clear: no one but the elites who run the country are allowed an income above the poverty line.
As for “dignity and freedom”: In Castro’s Cuba there are severe limits on every freedom promoted by the Catholic Church and the U.N. Human Rights Declaration. Without these freedoms, as the bishops well know, there is no dignity.
And, when it comes to “supporting one’s family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential” few places on earth make it more difficult to achieve these goals than Castro’s Cuba. Support one’s family? No one is allowed to earn more than twenty dollars a month. Educating children? All children in Castro’s Cuba are forcibly indoctrinated in state-run schools that provide an inferior education, and all parents are prevented from having a say in their children’s education. Praising God? The Castro regime promotes atheism and severely restricts public expressions of religious devotion as well as private instruction in religion. Worse than that, those Cubans who profess their faith in God are discriminated against in the workplace and at school.
So, Pope Francis himself makes clear the true meaning of any economic agreement with Castro’s Cuba: all such agreements are an affront to human dignity and a farce .
“In the absence of such a vision, all economic activity is meaningless.”
The condemnation of the Castro regime becomes even more specific in other statements made by bishops Wenski and Pace.
Labor protections are needed for those workers dislocated by free trade, as well as to ensuring safe working conditions, “reasonable” work hours, time off, and “living family wages.”
First of all, while the Castro dynasty’s stranglehold on all commercial transactions in Cuba makes it impossible to speak of “free trade” with that nation, it is nonetheless undeniable that for the past 54 years or so, the country’s entire labor force has been in a permanent state of dislocation.
Second, safe working conditions are a very low priority in Castro’s Cuba, so low, in fact, that it is unattainable, given the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and the sheer poverty that pervades all aspects of life.
Third, work hours and time off are also a low concern in Castro’s Cuba, where genuine productivity is hampered by the government’s total control of the economy. In fact, work itself – a main source of human dignity according to the teachings of the Catholic Church — is severely devalued in Castro’s Cuba, where everyone learns sooner or later that labor is never properly rewarded. “They [the government] pretend to pay us,” say most Cubans, “and we pretend to work.”
Fourth, in Castro’s Cuba anyone who is not part of the elite oligarchy never earns “living family wages.” An income of 20 dollars a month only covers the barest necessities, and not even that. On top of it, the prices charged by government-owned stores that only accept dollars and euros are grossly inflated, making it even harder for Cubans to purchase basic items. A good example of this is the price of cars, recently made available to Cubans for the first time in over fifty years: a 44,000 dollar Peugeot costs around 250,000 dollars. This price gouging applies to used cars too.
But that’s not all. The bishops keep hammering away at the injustices in Castro’s Cuba, all of which –according to Pope Francis — make trading with that rogue state “meaningless.”
Commercial agreements should also “honor the patrimony” of indigenous people and their communities, sharing the benefits of commerce “equitably.” The agreements should also be designed to ensure a reduction in the need for people to emigrate.
How perceptive of the bishops! It’s as if they had Castro’s Cuba in mind, exactly. Commercial agreements with Castro’s Cuba not only ignore the “patrimony” of the islands inhabitants, but plunder and destroy it. (Since the Spanish colonists exterminated the Caribbean natives of the island, all who reside in Cuba have to be considered its “indigenous” people, regardless of race or ancestry.)
Arrangements made by the military junta that runs Cuba and foreign companies are all based on the theft of resources. To begin with, since the government owns everything and everything was at some point stolen from private ownership — most of it “indigenous” — all transactions and profits are an act of theft. Secondly, since the profits are not shared with the Cuban people, but are pocketed by the oligarchs who make the deals, the patrimony of the Cuban people is plundered.
A good example of the inequitable exploitation of the indigenous people of Cuba is the issue of salaries paid to those who work for foreign companies, such as the European hotel chains that run most of Cuba’s tourist resorts. While the hotels pay these workers wages that are more or less on a par with minimum wages in Europe or North America, the workers get only twenty dollars a month while the Ministry of Tourism claims the lion’s share. Such exploitation can justly be compared to slavery.
Worst of all, much of the tourist industry, which is Cuba’s largest trade sector, places Cuba’s beaches and other significant sites beyond the reach of 99 percent of the poulation, since the vast majority of Cubans cannot afford the prices charged by these tourist facilities. In other words, Cuba’s natural assets –whether it is nickel mines or beaches or resorts — are exploited by a small oligarchy inequitably at the expense of the indigenous people of Cuba.
As for the “need to emigrate”: All of the commercial ventures and trade agreements made by Cuba’s ruling oligarchy have not reduced the number of emigrants from Cuba, but rather increased it. This is due to the fact that the inequities that are part and parcel of all trade with Cuba are enhanced rather than diminished by continued trade, for as the profits keep flowing directly into the pockets of the ruling oligarchy, that oligarchy is not only kept securely in place, but actually induced to maintain in place all of the inequities that keep it in power and make it rich. As long as foreign nations trade with Cuba’s ruling oligarchy, the need to emigrate will remain intense.
The bishops continue their harangue of the Castro regime:
Trade agreements should promote agriculture in developing countries and should protect residents of rural areas, the bishops said. The agreements should support “sustainable development” and “care for creation.”
Obviously, the bishops must be fully aware of the degradation of the Cuban countryside and the existence of vast tracts of fallow land, much of it covered by invasive weeds. And they must also be aware of the fact that the fertile soil of Cuba no longer produces enough food to keep the Cuban people from starving. They must have also seen the toll taken on the environment by pollution and the abysmal state of basic infrastructural necessities, such as sewers.
And they seem aware of the fact that Cuban trade with other nations has only worsened the situation. The fact that Cuba must import so much of its food, including items that it used to export, and that tight government controls prevent the Cuban people from making their land productive again, must have struck the bishops as one of the grossest injustices in Castro’s Cuba, and one of the strongest reasons for not trading with that dictatorship.
When all is said and done, then, the bishops came down very hard on the concept of trade agreements with the Castro regime. One of the strongest arguments made by them against trading with Castro’s Cuba was reserved for the end of their message, which touched on the tight repression of the Cuban people, which constantly negates their dignity, and on the way in which they are constantly excluded from all decisions by an oligarchy that cultivates secrecy rather than transparency and never has the interests of the Cuban people in mind when striking deals with foreigners.
The two bishops also stressed the need for popular participation in “decisions that touch their lives.’ “Human dignity demands transparency and the right of people to participate in decisions that impact them.”