Last month, USA Today published an essay by Mark Pinsky under the headline, "Could Catholic leader usher in a new Cuba?" The opinion column proposed that the best possible successor to the Castro brothers is CardinalJaime Ortega y Alamino.

Such speculation, which has been sporadically offered in the past, is not only grossly disconnected from reality, but also condescending and offensive.

First and foremost, one must contend with the fact that none of the ruthless old generals who currently run Cuba would ever allow a bishop any real leadership role, even after the Castro brothers are gone from the scene. Moreover, why should anyone assume that Cardinal Ortega will foment real political change or be trusted by all segments of society? Thus far, he has done nothing to arouse such hopes.

Cardinal Ortega is no more fit to lead the Cuban people than any columnist is to suggest what will be best for post-Castro Cuba. In essence, what is offered here seems to envision another undemocratic and authoritarian transfer of power in Cuba, with Cardinal Ortega as an enlightened despot of sorts, or a Caribbean Merlin. Even worse, there are many other emerging leaders in Cuba who have already proven their commitment to genuine democratic reform: dissidents such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Guillermo Fariñas, Oswaldo Payá and countless others, all of whom risk life and limb every day for merely disagreeing with the military junta that runs our island.

Although Cardinal Ortega may seem "charming" and "amiable" to some, the cold, hard truth is that His Eminence supports the political oppression of the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that this is the reason he is "trusted" by the authorities. Last year, the cardinal showed his true colors by orchestrating the banishment from Cuba of dozens of political prisoners, and by lobbying in Brussels and Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Castro regime. Moreover, when 165 Cuban dissidents justly complained about the cardinal's behavior to Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ortega condemned them all. And at the very same time, he posted a pastoral letter on his website in which he declared that anyone who was intent on toppling the current regime should have no part in determining the future of Cuba.

In addition, the cardinal has said that "the Cuban people's primary concern is less with political liberalization than with a pressing need for economic revival." Nothing could be further from the truth or more revealing of the cardinal's ultimate loyalties. This is the "big lie" that Raul Castro and his cronies parrot incessantly, a groupthink falsehood they would love for the outside world to believe. Political liberalization and economic revival go hand in hand, not just in theory, but in practice, and most Cubans on the island are painfully aware of this fact, no matter how closely the cardinal sticks to the script handed to him by the authorities.

Finally, the op-ed portrayed the Cuban exile community as "intractable opponents of the regime, some of whom still expect to fly into Havana and take over after the Castros." This is the same vitriolic nonsense that the rulers of Castrolandia have been spewing for 52 years. We who left — and those who oppose the regime from within — are always called "intractable," "unreasonable" or worse. We are also imagined as nothing but potential dictators and exploiters, ever itching to take over Cuba and stick it to those who remained behind, including our own relatives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We who oppose the Castro regime are no more "intractable" than any American or European regarding human rights in their own countries. We are also no more unreasonable than any people who have been robbed of what was rightfully theirs, and certainly no less justified in decrying injustice.

Besides, what these critics fail to see, blinded as they seem to be by Castroite propaganda — or perhaps by the sentiment that we Cubans are inferior and undeserving of genuine justice — is that we "intractable" exiles and dissidents do not hanker for retribution or power. What drives us to oppose the Castro regime at every turn is its unending, intolerable injustice. Much like someone who has to watch loved ones tortured and raped day after day, without an end in sight, we cannot "let go" or "forget."

As long as our brethren are still enslaved, denied the most basic human rights, we have to oppose the unending wrong. And what drives us to the edge of despair, day after bitter day, is the fact that our oppressed brethren deserve a much better leader than Cardinal Ortega, or the opinions of so-called "experts" who deign to fathom what is best for Cuba.



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