Radio-TV Marti and the not-so-great disappearing hatchet job
William Booth of the Washington Post broke an exceptionally important story this weekend about an editorial published on the website of Radio and TV Marti – the anti-Castro, taxpayer -funded government broadcasters –which called Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega a “lackey” and asserted the Cardinal espoused views that were “contrary to the doctrine of Christ.”
Hours after Booth’s story was published, the editorial disappeared from the website, and links that were once live instead produced a message “Esta página no existe,” [This page does not exist], although the piece for Spanish readers can currently be found here.
Name-calling against the Cardinal is considered fair game among some hardliners in the exile community who worry that successful efforts by the Church to help free political prisoners and to open spaces for debate in Cuba on economic reform and human rights convey an image of openness on the island inconsistent with their preferred views of the Castro government.
In those precincts, it’s commonplace to read language like this, “The Pope came and went from Cuba, salsa dancing with the excommunicated Fidel (in 1962), saying not a word about, nor once acknowledging, never mind meeting with, any of the dissidents,” which is both harsh and consistent with expression in a free society.
But it’s really something else, isn’t it, when a U.S. government agency, whose board of directors is appointed by the White House, and whose voice is designed to reflect U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba, uses derogatory language against the leader of the Catholic Church on the island and contests his view of the Gospel and Catholic teaching.
As Dr. Jorge Dominguez of Harvard said, “calling him a lackey is beyond belief. It’s amazing that this came from a U.S. government broadcaster.”
The editorial was written by Carlos A. Garcia-Pérez, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. According to reporting by El Nuevo Herald, it was read on the air and published on the Martis’ website on Thursday, May 3rd before it got yanked this weekend.
Mr. Garcia-Pérez assured Daniel Shoer Roth of the Herald that the editorial had not been taken down due to controversy it created, “It’s not something we want to be pounding all the time; we put it up for two days and then took it down.” He added, “Our view was not directed or intended to be disrespectful to Cardinal Ortega” although calling the Cardinal a “lackey” hardly sounds like a compliment. One hardline organ lamented the decision to disappear the diatribe saying “Garcia has sadly backed down.”
Cardinal Jaime Ortega is not without his critics. But the U.S. government has not previously been among them. In last year’s State Department Report on Religious Freedom, Cardinal Ortega was praised for the courageous and bold steps he has taken on human rights and creating spaces for expression that the hardliners criticize and fear so much.
His critics call this collaboration. But the Catholic Church is quite independent and apart from the Cuban State. A similar wall of separation was invoked by Mr. Pérez who defended his editorial saying “We are funded by the U.S. government, but we have editorial independence.”
That may be the case, but why is taxpayer money being used to interpret Catholic teaching for Cardinal Ortega? And if he isn’t reflecting our foreign policy by attacking the Cardinal, perhaps a U.S. policy maker will rise to his defense. But, one wonders, would Radio and TV Marti cover it if someone did?