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US Catholic bishops committee dismayed over Trump’s new direction on Cuba

Cuban street vendors wear the U.S. and Cuban colors as they wait for clients in downtown Havana on June 16, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

(RNS) Disappointed with President Trump’s decision to reverse U.S. policy on Cuba, a committee of American Catholic bishops is calling on the president to keep ordinary Cubans in mind as he curtails trade and tourism.

Bishop Oscar Cantú. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

“I was saddened to learn that President Trump scaled back our country’s bilateral engagement with the island nation,” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a statement Monday (June 19).

While Trump plans to roll back Obama Cuba policies that have significantly buoyed the island’s economy, he does not intend to break the diplomatic relations re-established in 2015 — 54 years after they had been severed.

Cantú said he hopes the president will “consider the ramifications for many ordinary Cubans who have taken advantage of new opportunities to support their families.”

Working behind the scenes, Pope Francis helped broker the rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S., which lifted the American embargo on the island.

Trump last week decried former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy.

“I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said, criticizing Obama for ignoring the human rights abuses of the Castro regime.

While Cantú said Trump was right to call out Cuba for its continuing abuse of human rights, he said the administration should remember Pope Francis’ call for the two nations to come together in dialogue.

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

10 Comments

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  • US bishops are fully behind Trump’s order to federal officials to “draft a rule to roll back the Obamacare mandate that birth control be included under all employer insurance plans.”
    After Trump’s election, US bishops promised that their pro-immigration efforts would “honor and respect the laws of this nation.” And so, not one has offered any of their properties be used as sanctuaries.
    US bishops fully behind Trump administration’s tax-payer funding of private schools
    and social agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ persons.

  • As usual for this website, the article was about a difference of opinion between the US episcopate and Trump.
    I was providing information that the US episcopate and Trump share common ground on far more important issues.
    Scores of non-Catholic religious leaders have offered their buildings as sanctuaries because these religious leaders believe that morality trumps unjust laws.

  • Trump is all too happy to overlook other countries’ “human rights records.” All that matters to him is the bottom line. Erdogan purging anyone opposed to his regime? No problem. Netanyahu adopting Pax Israeliana? Who cares?? Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies mean-girling Qatar as a means of showing strength against Iran? The who and the what?? Not like the US has any military interests in Qatar or anything, right??

  • The occupation of Guantanamo *is* unfortunately unjust, and is not supported by reliance on a lease that is no longer in force. The lease was premised on a promise to protect the government of Cuba, and the US clearly no longer has that as a goal. You may check the original documents at your leisure, as they are all online. The embargo, or blockade, does injury to the lives of children (as well as to adults), and as the church believes not only in the right to life, but also the right to a life, the embargo is wrong, as well as contrary to the gospel, also online.

  • Sorry. You are mistaken.
    The 1903 Treaty of Relations obligates the US to protect the government of Cuba.
    The language of Article VII is
    “To enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the Government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations, at certain specified points, to be agreed upon with the President of the United States.”
    The language is repeated in the lease.

  • As to your reliance on the Else/Elsea document, here is one sentence that is incorrect:

    ” The two subsequent lease agreements, one signed in 1903 and a second in 1934, acknowledged …” .

    The 1934 document was not a lease, but a treaty. It was a treaty that replaced the previous 1903 Treaty of Relations. The 1934 Treaty of Relations was approved by the senate. The Senate did not approve the LEASE in 1903, since the 1903 LEASE was a contract authorized to be entered into by the 1903 Treaty. I say this only to help you see that the analysis that you rely on is sloppy.

  • The 1934 Treaty of Relations, replaced the 1903 Treaty of Relations. It does this by erasing the 1903 document as a whole, and then adding back provisions to be kept. The section that you quote says that the agreement regarding the base shall be carried forward as is. It adds nothing new. It goes so far as to restate the obvious – that agreement cannot be changed unilaterally, and that it remains in force until it doesn’t.
    Even the statement that the US can abandon the base at any time is no more than the provision in the lease itself that the US needs to pay only as long as it occupies the land.
    This section is not relevant to claims of breach of contract or change of circumstance.

  • It continues 1903, yes. So it continues the duty to protect.
    “Change of circumstance” is an international norm, see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clausula_rebus_sic_stantibus

    It can be invoked for long running agreements where the obligations have become largely delusional. In this case, we already have material breach as well as anticipatory breach, so invoking this principle is only needed for the intransigent.
    The Bay of Pigs was a breach, as well as was allowing the mafia to infest Havana. What material provision of the lease do you feel Cuba breached??

  • You omit dealing with the central point: that the US was once a paternal friend of Cuba but now is an enemy, having invaded Cuba, attempted to kill its leader, and has thrown up an economic blockade. These things are not secrets. The situation is quite changed. However one need not rely on that doctrine, which looks to the inability of the parties to carry out their obligations. The US has already failed to carry out its central obligation, to protect the Cuban people and its government. I have mentioned this previously.
    As far as payment, since you bring it up, cash is legal tender. A check is not, and the lease does specify cash, not cardboard.

    Your point that the US has “the bomb” is of course well taken, but that is not an argument that goes to the heart of the matter.

  • Sorry I did not see your post. Few seem as interested as you are, so I appreciate your taking the time to defend the US position as best you can. This will be my last reply, as I find your argments uninteresting, no offense.

    You did not mention “the bomb” as you say, but why quibble: you did say that the US is conveniently stronger. And that the US is not willing to defend its position in the International Court of Justice.

    YOU SAY “The U.S. did not invade Cuba.” Another quibble, I fear, or do you think that Kennedy was wrong to apologize for the US involvement?

    YOU SAY “The protection of the Cuban people is a not part of the lease.” Shall I quote from the 1903 Treaty then?
    //VII. That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its (Cuba’s) own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States…//
    The same sentence is contained in the 1903 lease document itself. As a native English speaker, I can afirm that this says that the government of Cuba, in order to provide for its own defense, will lease property to the United States.

    YOU SAY “The lease specified gold, which an amendment reduced to U.S. dollars. If Cuba chooses not to cash it, that’s its right.”
    It may be Cuba’s right not to cash the check, but that is not the point. Cuba did not agree to the change in the terms of payment, as is required for it to be a valid change to the lease. One party cannot change an agreement unilaterally. So the obligation of the US under the lease remains the same, to pay in gold. Unlike cash, no one has to accept a check for anything. A check is not legal tender. The US may not make the lease payments using cardboard, unless Cuba chooses to cash the checks, which as you note, it need not. Whether any bank would cash the checks is another issue, given the financial sanctions.

    YOU SAY “And that is the heart of the matter.” The heart of the matter is that the time for racist colonialism is long past. Plus the blockade is an act of war. It is time for peace.

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