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Letter to Secretary of State Christopher on Need for Dialogue


August 26, 1994

The Honorable Warren M. Christopher
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Christopher,

The latest developments in United States policy towards Cuba, especially concerning the thousands who have been leaving the island in recent days, are alarming and disturbing. The present policy of interdiction and indefinite detention of those leaving Cuba cannot be a just or a long-term solution.

The Cuban refugee crisis presents the U. S. Government with very difficult choices, which we appreciate. But it also offers new opportunities.

Cuba’s economy is in shambles, the denial of democratic values an open wound, its tired Marxist rhetoric an anachronism, and the sufferings of its people deepen each day. With the bishops of Cuba, we deplore any measures that, in seeking to punish the Cuban government, serve in fact to increase the sufferings of the Cuban people. I urge the Administration to seize the opportunities of this new moment, not by tightening the already burdensome embargo, but by taking those steps which could lead to peaceful political and social changes within Cuba.

One necessary step is to begin the process of dialogue with the Cuban authorities on a vital set of issues: refugees and immigration, human rights and religious liberty, democratic processes and the embargo. Our bishops’ Conference has consistently advocated dialogue and negotiation as the means to address serious issues not only in the Caribbean, but also in Central America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. It is not a seal of approval, nor does it ignore serious abuses or fundamental problems. Rather, it is a way to fix responsibility and seek progress on difficult and conflicted matters.

With the Cuban bishops our Conference has questioned the impact of the embargo and its consequences for the Cuban people and for peaceful change. We have urged consideration of a policy of linking a gradual lifting of the embargo to specific and concrete improvements in human rights, democratic processes, religious liberty and other vital concerns.

The Catholic Church in the United States has assisted the people of Cuba through our collaboration with the bishops of that nation, and will continue to do so. The U.S. government knows that we stand ready to assist in the settlement of refugees in any way possible. In the final analysis, however, the best refugee policy is one that improves human rights and political and economic conditions within Cuba so that people will not, in desperation, be forced to leave.

We are aware that there are those who would urge a continuation, even an intensification, of the old policy created to blunt the threat of a Soviet satellite state. We fear such a policy will not contribute to the promise of peaceful change. It can also threaten further suffering and even new violence for a people that has already endured so much.

We believe now is a crucial time for a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Cuba with a focus on fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom, peace and security. We urge the U.S. Government to designate a special envoy to open serious discussions with the Cuban government on ways to address these major issues. While it is true that there have been and are now various channels of communication, the changed world and the growing human costs demand a new approach.

With appreciation for your attention to these concerns, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly
Bishop of Norwich
Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy


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