| HAVANA, June 16
HAVANA, June 16 The resignation of two editors
of an outspoken Roman Catholic Church magazine in Cuba threatens
to stall what had been a thriving political dialogue inside Cuba
and a rare forum to challenge the ruling Communist Party
The former editors of Espacio Laical magazine, Roberto Veiga
and Lenier Gonzalez, used the Internet to promote debate on
political issues such as the need for a multiparty system,
internet expansion, reintegration with the diaspora and the
strengths and weaknesses of reforms under President Raul Castro.
They quit last week after 10 years on the job, saying in
their resignation letter it was because of pressure from inside
the Church hierarchy, not the government, from people who did
not want the Church to get involved in politics.
While small by Latin American standards, the Cuban Catholic
Church is by far the largest and best organized force on the
Caribbean island with a different ideology than the Communist
Now Church insiders and diplomats fear conservative bishops
from the Cuban provinces are attempting to reverse the course of
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a moderate who is scheduled to retire
soon and who had improved relations with the Cuban state.
Although Ortega helped open space to criticize the Cuban
system, a faction within the Church was skeptical about striking
a bargain with Cuban authorities given past repression.
"I hope this doesn't signal a historic mistake by the Church
at a critical moment for Cuba," said a European ambassador who
follows Church politics and supports Ortega's policy.
An East European diplomat had a different take, stating any
cooperation with the government was useless and only gave it
The magazine, which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of
Havana, had proved uniquely able to bring to the discussion
Cubans from various political persuasions on and off the island
and sponsored forums in Havana that drew a mixed political
audience, from government supporters to opponents.
It had a run of just 4,500 issues but a larger and more
active presence online. Most intellectuals, artists and
academics have some access to the Internet while the general
population does not.
"It's always hard to say, but no one is indispensible," the
magazine's recently appointed director, Gustavo Andujar, said in
a brief statement about their resignations. "Espacio Laical will
continue with a new team."
Espacio Laical and its editors had become more outspoken
after the cardinal brokered the 2010 release of most political
prisoners and forged a tactical alliance with Castro, supporting
his reforms in exchange for more visibility in state media and
other minor concessions.
Church insiders said the former editors and recently
appointed director were often at odds due to the latter's
efforts to tone down the magazine.
The director, former editors and the Havana archdiocese had
no further comment.
Veiga and Gonzalez said their work had provoked the ire of
those "who think that the Church should not get involved in
politics and those who believe that it should not provide space
to all actors in Cuban civil society."
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew