Friday, March 1, 2024

Good Friday ‘holiday’ wish for the Cubans


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WHAT THE multicultural, multi-faith peoples of the Caribbean Community take for granted in the observance of Good Friday as a national holiday, will tomorrow be the experience for Cubans living in Cuba for the first time since the Fidel Castro-led revolution of 53 years ago.
It’s because of last month’s three-day official visit to that Caribbean nation by Pope Benedict and the confidence of the government in Havana in the estimated 11 million population of whom no more than ten per cent, or one million were categorized as “practising Catholics” up to the 1990s.
In 1998, it had taken the historic visit of John Paul II, the first Pope to visit Cuba since its 1959 revolution, for Cubans to celebrate Christmas as a state-recognised public holiday.
In both cases, the government made clear their appreciation of the papal visits and willingness to engage in adjustments on human rights issues, aware also of the Vatican’s increasing calls for an end to the very punitive United States embargo against Cuba.
Having survived the immense social and economic challenges in dealing with what it had characterized as “the special period” of the post-Soviet Union phase in countering the United States’ economic blockade, the government perhaps finds it politically comforting in being able to respond to requests from two Popes within 14 years for Cubans to also observe, first Christmas and now Easter as public holidays.
And why not? After all, the Cuban people, including the dissidents at home and abroad, are painfully aware of what a terrible failure the United States blockade has proven to be as Washington’s “weapon of choice” to destroy the Castro-led revolution and, simultaneously, of Cuba’s expanding integration with Latin American and Caribbean nations.  
Let, therefore, freedom and progress bloom in Cuba and for Good Friday to become – like Christmas – not just a one-off public holiday this year, but a permanent calendar fixture.
Diplomat’s arrest
I wish to also observe that while there has been quick and strident criticism, at the level of CARICOM ambassadors at the United Nations, to the quite shocking arrest and humiliation of St Vincent and the Grenadines ambassador to the UN, Camillo Gonsalves, by members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), there was no joint statement by CARICOM on this development up to the time of writing this column.
The details provided by ambassador Gonsalves – of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves – stand in sharp contrast to claims offered by the NYPD. Further, with racism emerging as a possible factor, it is desirable that efforts be made at the level of CARICOM Heads of Government with President Barack Obama’s administration to diffuse the problem, rather than allowing it into deteriorate into a legal battle with undesirable political consequences.
A blessed Easter weekend to readers and good wishes also to the people of Cuba – Christians or  else – observing this Good Friday as a public holiday.

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