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Report on Cuba passes committee and heads toward full General Assembly

Dialogue may provide new opportunities for partnership and mutual mission

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

PORTLAND, Ore.—Rev. Daniel Izquierdo, General Secretary of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba (PRCC), spoke to members and invited guests of the Cuba Partnership Network on June 20 at the 222nd Presbyterian General Assembly. Izquierdo said he sees a new openness to dialogue, but after 57 years of misunderstanding and mistrust, it is still going to be a long journey.

Izquierdo said the Presbyterian Church has remained a faithful partner and made critical contributions to the progress that is under way. While the countries stopped talking, the church never did.

He believes, as many others do, that it is impossible to have normalization while the embargo is in place and Guantanamo is occupied by North Americans. He realizes too that some people in the U.S. want to see more advances in Cuba’s freedom of speech and respect for human rights. Both sides have expectations for economic compensations that will take careful and thoughtful negotiation.

Rev. Daniel Izquierdo, General Secretary of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba (PRCC).

Rev. Daniel Izquierdo, General Secretary of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba (PRCC). Photo by Kathy Melvin.

Izquierdo believes changes will come in baby steps, until the embargo is lifted. He said Cubans believe that what they call the “blockade” has hurt only the people of Cuba, not its government, by limited access to food, medicine and technology. The U.S. has refused to lift the embargo, until steps are taken toward transitioning to a democracy and improving human rights.

Izquierdo is a member of the team that fulfilled the assignment of the 221st General Assembly (2014), to create a report called New Hopes and Realities in Cuban-American Relations: a Nuevo Moment, which was presented Tuesday to the committee on Peacemaking and International Issues. The committee approved the report and forwarded it to the General Assembly for full consideration.

Some of the report’s highlights are listed here. While opposing all limitations on human rights in Cuba, the General Assembly has repeatedly called for an end to the economic embargo and other sanctions that have divided families and limited economic development without bringing about political change.

Recommendations include:

  • In support of mutual mission engagement with the Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada en Cuba (IRPC), engagement will be based on the principles of “people-to-people” exchange for spiritual growth and learning. It will build on existing theological statements and study of partnerships on past experiences of mutuality in mission: shared projects, mutual visits to Cuba and the U.S.; increasing connection between the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas and U.S. seminaries, as well as pulpit exchanges.
  • There is substantial evidence that the embargo has had more impact on the Cuban people than on their government, hence this 55-year-old policy is an impediment to reconciliation. To call for an end to the embargo is effectively to call for a new trade agreement, preferably one that allows Cuba’s full integration into a stronger Caribbean basic economy.
  • Although the U.S. has hundreds of military bases in more than 70 countries, the Guantanamo naval base is somewhat unusual. It dates back to the U.S. seizure of Spanish territories after the sinking of the Main in Havana Harbor and the U.S. intervention in Cuba’s fight for independence. The GA has been on record on the dismantling of Guantanamo since 1969. The GA has previously called for closing the prison and returning the naval base to Cuba. The prison weakens claims that the U.S. practices better human rights. The GA passed a Resolution on Torture and Abuse of Prisoners, naming Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib specifically in 2006.

“With appropriate funding and resources, with leadership from the IPRC Synod and World Mission, Cuba Partnership Network would engage in ‘hermanamiento’ (sisterhood) toward an updated, nuanced mutual agreement.”


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