From Communism to Catholicism?

From the May 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

Back in February 1998, when the world was still reeling from the great East Asian financial meltdown and the new European Union federal currency had yet to see the light of day, this magazine made a prediction. It was a prediction based upon an understanding of history, placed within the perspective of current events, and overlaid with the vision of biblical prophecy: “[T]he first link in the chain that will inevitably bind Havana to Rome and thence to the European Union is forged. The way is open for the key diplomat of the EU, Pope John Paul ii himself, to influence the powerful EU to invest in Cuba, resurrect its economy, and give to the [European] Union major influence in the most strategic location that it could ever hope for, just a short haul from the Straits of Florida, a proverbial stone’s throw from the North American mainland” (Trumpet, February 1998).

Five years later, on March 11 this year, the newswires buzzed with the story that the EU had established an official office in Havana.

Here is how the efe News Service portrayed that event: “The European Union has opened a representative office in the Cuban capital which officials said heralded a new era in relations between Brussels and Havana. … [Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque] said that Cuba understood that the presence of the new EU office was ‘a signal by the European Union that it is interested in tightening relations and cooperation’ with Havana.”

The EU presence in Havana will work toward hastening the entry of Cuba into the Cotonu Accord. Under this trade treaty, the EU guarantees preferential trade allowances to former European colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

In one fell swoop, the EU has sabotaged the 40-year trade embargo imposed by the U.S. on Cuba and seized preference in trade with what will become Cuba’s revitalized economy.

It’s the old colonial approach to Latin America from mother Europa all over again: Capitalize on the development of much-needed resources in the New World in exchange for processed goods from the Old World.

In that old deal, which operated from the 15th to 19th century, the winner was Europe by far. It all began in Cuba way back in 1492.

“Sunday, October 28: He went … in search of the nearest point in the island of Cuba to the south-south-west, and he entered a very lovely river …. He says that the island is the most lovely that eyes have ever seen; it is full of good harbors and deep rivers, and it seems that the sea can never be stormy, for the vegetation on the shore runs down almost to the water …” (The Journal of Christopher Columbus). These were Christopher Columbus’s observations on the day he entered and named the river and harbor of San Salvador, Cuba.

Today’s Cuba still has much in the way of exploitable resources. Though considerable deforestation has occurred, the island continues to support a lush mix of vegetation ranging from tropical near-jungle to upland pines. Large, state-controlled plantations support the growing of Cuba’s principal cash crops—cane sugar, tobacco, citrus fruits and coffee. Rich in nickel deposits, the island also contains sizable reserves of copper, chromite and iron ore.

However, Cuba’s economy, long tied to the apron strings of the ussr, has languished in the wake of the implosion of the old Soviet Union. The nation simply needs another patron. Enter Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul ii.

Squeezed between the seemingly all-powerful United States to the north and the giant Catholic countries within the huge continent to its south, Fidel Castro’s Cuba has seemingly taken a most uncharacteristic, yet, given the economic and political circumstances, a most obvious, position. With U.S.-sanctioned embargoes limiting trade with North America, Castro must see the writing on the wall.

Catholic Latin America will inevitably return to its roots and join in a trade alliance with the most dominant economy outside the U.S., the EU. With few exceptions, revival of religion has largely brought social, if not yet economic, stability to Latin America following decades of revolution and counter-revolution. Latin America is a plum ripe for timely plucking by the European colossus.

The revolutionary movement in Cuba, without the support of the now-defunct Soviet Union, is sputtering in its death throes. Cuba must either consort with the EU, or it is fated to descend into decay. In recent years, as the aging dictator of this last revolutionary regime in the Latin American region has contemplated the future of his nation and the imminent waning of his power, he has paradoxically turned to the one man who has so powerfully worked to destroy the ideology that Cuba once embraced for 30 years—godless communism—and who is the dominant spiritual influence both on the continent of Europe and in Latin America: Pope John Paul ii.

Preparing for the inevitable, Castro began easing formal restrictions on religious worship. In 1992, the Cuban government, officially atheist since 1962, declared it was now adopting a secular approach. The people immediately commenced a religious revival.

Castro visited the pope at the Vatican in November 1996. An invitation was issued to John Paul ii to visit Cuba. The pope accepted, but on his terms, which included free movement, equal participation of the church in organizing the visit, and free expression of faith in services. Castro submitted to the pope’s demands.

As a gesture of goodwill to the Vatican, Castro re-introduced the Christmas holiday on December 25, 1997. Roman Catholic parishes in Havana were packed with worshipers that day. Church bells rang out in celebration all over Cuba. Two days later, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana and leader of the Catholic Church in Cuba, cried out to a gathering of 1,200 young, newly religious hopefuls, “In your search for sense in your life, look for a centering place: the Catholic Church.” Religious fervor increased the closer the Cubans got to January 21, 1998—the date of the pope’s arrival in Havana.

The government saw the visit of John Paul ii as having great public-relations value to Cuba’s ailing economy. The president of the Cuban Congress, Ricardo Alarcon, observed that the pope’s visit would place Cuba on the front pages of newspapers worldwide, showing that the island nation has powerful friends among other nations, despite the efforts of the U.S. to isolate it.

This milestone visit was a huge success for the pope. It was, indeed, another brilliant Vatican coup. Cuba was finally coming in from the cold and joining the long line of those penitent, previously communized nations all having fallen under the papal spell since the heady days when the pope endorsed the Polish Solidarity Movement as the thin edge of the wedge to break the grip of the hold of communism on so many of them.

Since Pope John Paul ii’s visit to Cuba, relations between Cuba and the Vatican have continued to warm. By isolating Cuba from any association with the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the U.S. is simply pushing Cuba into the waiting paws of the Eurobeast.

In March, the EU announced the imminence of the conclusion of a free-trade agreement with certain Latino countries: “The EU and Mercosur—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay—have set themselves firmly on the road to opening up markets between the two trading blocs. An exchange of first offers for market opening paves the way for an EU-Mercosur Association Agreement …” (www.EUBusiness.com, March 6).

Mercosur is the free-trade association of Latin America. Conceived as a virtual Latin American common market, membership is open to all Latino countries. Its present members are Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Chile and Bolivia have already signed free-trade agreements with Mercosur. Negotiations continue for Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia to join; Central American countries are also negotiating membership. Having membership open to all Latin American countries means that Cuba could apply for membership.

The real nub of the Mercosur equation is its relationship with the EU. Once the four member countries have concluded their historic deal with the EU, it is just a matter of time before the whole of Latin America jumps onto the bandwagon. With their economies in situations that range from desperate in Argentina and Brazil to not much better elsewhere, the Latin American nations will be easy meat for the massive European Union to take advantage of in trade and thus build a massive cross-Atlantic bloc that will dwarf all others in size and global economic clout. Connected by a common language, religion and Hispanic heritage, Latin America will naturally merge with the EU through Spain, one of the EU’s most influential member nations, in the political arena.

The strategic dangers—political and economic—to the U.S. posed by such a prospect are huge. They take on even greater meaning when Cuba enters the equation. As the U.S. giant remains nonplussed by these developments, the beast of Revelation 13, ridden by the great whore of Revelation 17, nibbles almost at its feet.

Watch for careful but overt initiatives from Vatican City to consolidate the church’s power through winning the loyalty of its Cuban parishioners back to their religious roots. Watch for strengthening religious, commercial, political, defence and security ties between Latin America and Europe.

Indeed, watch for the wheel to come full circle. Watch for Cuba, one of the first New World lands claimed by Columbus for the religion of Rome, to become the final piece falling into place in the bonding of Latin America by the power of religion to its European foster parent. Watch for developing EU foreign policy to ultimately exploit the whole region from Havana to Tierra del Fuego in a great future blockading of an economically declining North America. This will prevent the U.S. from waxing “rich through the abundance of her [EU] delicacies” (Rev. 18:3) and place it in the gravest of dangers—as fodder for “the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus …” (Rev 17:6).