Cuba

Cuban Catholic priest says he’s the target of a “smear campaign”

The Rev. José Conrado Rodríguez during a visit to Miami in 2015.
The Rev. José Conrado Rodríguez during a visit to Miami in 2015. El Nuevo Herald

The Rev. José Conrado Rodríguez, who favors a more socially committed Catholic church in Cuba and has spared no criticism against the island’s leaders, has denounced being the center of a "smear campaign."

Conrado said that after President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba, he personally noticed the "resurgence" of repression.

"They've launched a smear campaign presenting me as a terrorist,” the priest told el Nuevo Herald said during a recent pass through Miami. “They’ve made a documentary and have presented it to teachers and children."

The priest clarified that even though he has not seen the purported, others who have seen it reported "distorted" images of a church gathering and that the documentary suggests Conrado is a "friend" of Luis Posada Carriles, whom the Cuban government considers responsible for a terrorist attack on a Cubana de Aviacion.

Conrado added that when they protested to local authorities and representatives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, they were told they were not familiar with the video.

"It's really serious because these are fabrications...They are trying to create a climate of distrust against me and the work I do," said Conrado, adding that he believes the intention is "to frighten the population."

The priest oversees various projects to support the community in Trinidad in central Cuba, where his parish is located, and he historically has been one of the most vocal critics of the Cuban government as well as the hierarchy of the Catholic Church on the island. In his view, the newly appointed archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad García, — who replaced Cardinal Jaime Ortega — will attempt to change the relations between the government and the Church to make them "more effective."

"I do believe that Juan will make a difference; He is a pious, intelligent and faithful man to his Christian commitment. It is hopeful that Pope Francis has chosen him," he said.

Conrado also referred to the "impressive" impact Obama's visit left to the Cuban people. "The reaction of the people in general was very positive, his speech was incredibly wise. He reached the heart of the population," he said.

But the Cuban priest warned that Obama had left "the ball on the other side" and that the government's reaction has been "regressive" to "return to previous positions and ignore the contribution Obama made" to promote a new policy and new relations between the two nations.

"That's very serious, because it shows the unwillingness of the government to solve problems and to keep the same old schemes that divide,” he said.

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