WASHINGTON (May 21, 2004) -- Full freedom for the Cuban people should not come at the expense of a tightened economic embargo or further travel restrictions, according to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville (IL) used the recent report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to reiterate the positions of the USCCB in a letter to President Bush released today.
"The Commission's goals of meeting basic human needs in education, health care and housing, modernizing transportation and improving the environment, and most importantly, enhancing the democratic governance of Cuba, are laudable," Bishop Gregory writes. "However, these goals can be accomplished best through greater rather than less contact with the American people."
The full text of Bishop Gregory's letter follows:
Dear Mr. President:
On the occasion of the release of the report to you by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, I wish to share our views with you.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops shares with the Commission a strong desire and commitment to pursue full freedom for the people of Cuba, especially with respect to human rights and full religious freedom. The Conference strongly denounced the crackdown on Cuban human rights advocates in March and April of 2003 and will continue to do so. For too long the people of Cuba have endured excessive social, political and economic controls, causing
great numbers of Cubans to seek freedom abroad. Thus we welcome the attention that the Commission brings to these fundamental injustices so close to our own borders.
We hope, however, that the Commission's recommendations for tightening the economic embargo and further restricting travel will not be accepted. In concert with Pope John Paul II and the Cuban bishops, we consider the economic embargo to be morally unacceptable and politically counterproductive. Over the many years of the embargo, it has failed to achieve its goals of unseating the Castro government, restoring democracy and protecting human rights. In fact, the embargo hurts ordinary people in Cuba—the poor, the aged and the infirm. The additional restrictions proposed by the Commission—limiting Cuban-American family visits and the amount of money they can send to Cuba—will only serve to exacerbate the situation within the country.
It would be far better, in our view, to work toward opening up Cuban society through increased trade and economic activity, lifting travel restrictions and engaging in more intense diplomatic activity.
The Commission's goals of meeting basic human needs in education, health care and housing, modernizing transportation and improving the environment, and most importantly, enhancing the democratic governance of Cuba are laudable. We support these goals and we believe that the religious community, including the Catholic Church, can help play a vital role in the resurgence of Cuban society. However, these goals can be accomplished best through greater rather than less contact with the American people.
Thanking you for your consideration of our views, I am
Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Bishop of Belleville