(FIRMAS PRESS) In Cuba, one is jailed or released for reasons of state, not of law. Raúl Castro has decided to free 52 prisoners of conscience. It's his least-bad option. This time, the opposition defeated him. The heroic resistance of the Cuban democrats, their relatives and the rest of the dissident movement was destroying the already battered image of the dictatorship. Since 1962, this episode has been repeated with some frequency. The regime fills the prisons and then needs to evacuate them. For half a century, thousands of Cuban political prisoners have been caged without any reason or released for strategic reasons before they could serve their sentences.

How does the regime perform an “outcarceration”? This is where the Catholic Church came in. And this is the novel part. Raúl does not believe in God but does believe in priests. To him, God is an incomprehensible abstraction, while the Church is part of the tangible Cuban reality. For his part, Cardinal Jaime Ortega does not believe in communism but does believe in Raúl Castro. He assumes that Raúl, in contrast to Fidel, sincerely desires to introduce substantial changes in the country's social and economic sectors, because he understands that Cuba's society is foundering amid unproductiveness, corruption and an absolute lack of trust in a clumsy system that has carried it to disaster.

Raúl has discovered a phenomenon that's typical of societies in the process of transformation: to change course, power requires an interlocutor who is foreign to its own nature. Many years ago, Adolfo Suárez told me: “I needed the communists and the socialists to bury Francoism and bring democracy to Spain.” Raúl, who still does not dare to dialogue with the opposition, needs the Church – for now. It's not a bad decision. Maybe he'll get used to it and use it for other changes in the future. It could be useful for everyone.

Raúl, who governs through a group of obedient army officers, feels that he cannot take the issue of amnesty before the Cuban Parliament or the Communist Party, because those institutions, which are in silent revolt, have been trained to obey, not to deliberate. It would be very dangerous for him today to open a debate within structures of power pervaded by an explosive mixture of incredulity with the dogmas of the sect, uncertainty over the practical results of the government's model, and total dissatisfaction with two brothers who have done as they've pleased in half a century of blunders and arbitrariness.

For its part, the Church accepted the responsibility knowing that it was going to be battered by Tyrians and Trojans, because that's one role it cannot shirk: to aid society in tragic moments. That's what we saw in the South Africa of Episcopal Bishop Desmond Tutu and in the Sandinist Nicaragua of Miguel Obando y Bravo. They are very different situations, but the basic issue is the same: the Institution serves as a facilitator of solutions. It becomes a vehicle to accelerate changes and prevent violence. Naturally, it also seeks to regain its influence. Nothing evil in that.

for the freedom of all cuban political prisoners
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