Cuba’s Communist Party seeks help from religious leaders in stopping corruption, graft, apathy

By Andrea Rodriguez, AP
Friday, April 2, 2010

Cuba wants churches’ help in stopping corruption

HAVANA — Cuba’s Communist Party is asking the island’s churches and religious associations to help it stamp out the small-time corruption, petty theft and apathy that plague daily life, state media reported Friday.

President Raul Castro and other top officials met privately with non-Catholic religious leaders this week, imploring them to back the government’s announced efforts to crack down on graft and inefficiency.

“Together we should broaden what we do so that all of us Cubans become better, more honest, principled workers,” said Caridad Diego, the Communist Party’s head of religious affairs.

Cubans get free health care and education, as well as heavily subsidized food, housing, utilities and transportation, but the government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and pays employees an average of about $20 per month.

Salaries are so low that absenteeism is common, and there is little incentive to excel at work. Many state workers steal food, office supplies and all manner of other goods and sell them on the black market.

“We have a responsibility to keep working for respect and legality, to allow Cuban believers to be part of our efforts against vagrancy, lazy people, corrupt activities or those who facilitate social indiscipline, corruption,” Diego said.

She addressed her remarks Tuesday to Protestant and Jewish elders as well as top priests of Santeria, which mixes Roman Catholicism with the traditional African Yoruba faith and is Cuba’s most-followed religion.

A transcript of the speech was published Friday in the Communist Party newspaper Granma, which did not specify exactly what kind of help the government is asking of the leaders.

The event was held on the 20th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s 1990 meeting with religious leaders, after which he began to soften his government’s hard-line stance against religion.

Two years later, Cuba removed references to atheism from its constitution and allowed believers of all faiths to become members of the Communist Party.

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