HAVANA, Cuba (FR) – According to a 1989 human rights report issued by the U.S. government, Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba is now classified as one of the most repressive in the world, on a par with North Korea. But close observers of the Caribbean nation say that a growing religious revival among the youth is causing a stir among the top Marxist leaders of Castro’s government.
“The government seems ready to lessen pressure and provide concessions with regard to religion,” said Ernesto Betancourt, an analyst with Radio Marti. In an interview with News Network International, Betancourt said the Catholic church has already been given limited concessions. “But there seems to be a growing spontaneous awakening religious feeling in Cuba. There is a craving for the spiritual among the young people which is very significant.
“People who are ‘products of the revolution’ are turning toward religion, and this is more so as the meat of the Marxist-Leninist theology starts losing credibility and attraction to the young people as their stated value. So the government is trying to cope, trying to channel into ways that they could use religion to reduce crime with regard to anti-social behavior among young people.
“At the same time,” Betancourt added, “they are very concerned that once you start teaching individuals that they are responsible as individuals and that individualism is a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, of course you are undermining the appeal of collectivism; so there is a basic conflict that the government can in no way resolve on the ideological level.”
Fidel Castro was recently pressured by a group of internationally acclaimed writers, actors, artists, and intellectuals to schedule free elections and bring about human rights reforms. The group, which included author Saul Bellow, film director Frederico Fellini, and writer Eugene Ionesco, published an open letter in 18 international newspapers which criticized the Cuban regime. Castro was reportedly “insulted and annoyed” by the letter; officials in the Cuban government held a six-hour press conference to answer questions raised about human rights violations on the island.