The Archdiocese of Havana has rejected charges that Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana was working to silence a highly regarded Catholic magazine in Cuba.
The Miami Herald reported that the cardinal was pushing to close down the magazine Vitral due to its criticisms of the Communist regime in Cuba. The archdiocese said Cardinal Ortega never pressured the magazine to cease publication, pointing to its continued circulation as proof.
The Herald based its report on more than 250,000 cables it received from WikiLeaks, which included a cable from 2007 in which a U.S. diplomat said Cardinal Ortega was pressuring Vitral to cease publication. According to the cable, the Cuban government wanted to close down the publication because of its criticisms of the regime, but it feared an adverse reaction. Therefore, the cable said, “(the government) should be happy because the Church did their dirty work for them.”
The Miami newspaper said in its June 26 story that while the magazine reported in April of 2007 that “it would no longer be able to guarantee publication,” its director Dagoberto Valdés and most of his staff “resigned and the magazine all but halted its criticisms of the government.”
In response to these assertions, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Marquez, sent a letter to the Herald saying that, there was “only one occasion some years ago in which Cardinal Ortega spoke directly with Dagoberto Valdés about Vitral.”
The Herald contacted Valdes, who refused to comment on the cable but confirmed that Vitral “did annoy the government.”
Complaints about Vitral reached the Vatican’s embassy in Havana, Marquez noted, “and from that very (office) they asked Cardinal Ortega to visit Dagoberto and talk to him about the complaints, but there was never any talk of shutting down the publication.”
American diplomats at the Vatican were misinformed, “because the magazine was never shut down and continues to be in circulation,” he said.
Marquez said these kinds of accusations against Cardinal Ortega, even for incidents that occur outside of Havana, “are no longer surprising.”
“That is what happened with Vitral four years ago, and it happened again at the beginning of this year when he was blamed for the layoffs of a group of employees at Radio Paz in Miami.”
“It’s not important if the fact is real or not, it’s simply repeated even though there’s no first-hand source that confirms it in public,” Márquez said in his response. “It is good to ask who benefits from this.”
He also pointed out that there have long been complaints not only about Vitral but also about other Church publications.
“But the complaints have never turned into a request to shut down,” he added.
“The bishops have always defended the Church publications before authorities. I remember that in 1997, just before the Pope’s visit to Cuba, authorities pressured the Church to enroll the magazines in the national registry of publications,” Marquez said.
On that occasion, led by Cardinal Ortega, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba unanimously “decided not to enroll them precisely to avoid the risk that any of them might later be official shut down.”