Observatoire politique de l’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes de Sciences Po

Amérique latine - L’Année politique is a publication by CERI-Sciences Po’s Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean (OPALC). The study extends the work presented on the Observatory’s website (www.sciencespo.fr/opalc) by offering tools for understanding a continent that is in the grip of deep transformations.

Philippe Létrillart

Alongside the socialist society that Cuba is in the process of constructing, an unofficial “civil society” is actually taking shape, made up for the most part of dissident movements. The Cuban Catholic Church, the only non-Castrist institution in existence, is playing a crucial role in maintaining a certain balance between the two; the Church’s dual nature – universal in scope but locally implanted – has fostered a unique conception of its relation to Cuban society, all the more so as its ambition is above all to win back a position of influence and reaffirm its central status. This ambition is furthered by two means, both of which are basically handled by secular representatives, in particular by groups associated with Dagoberto Valdès. On one hand there is a pragmatic approach based on social work and the activities of training centers; on the other an effort to rethink the role of the Church in relation to society and envisage the possibility of a new form of citizenship founded on Catholic values. The charitable initiatives are acceptable to the regime; but the same does not hold as far as the resolve to become active social participants is concerned, a move seen as a form of defense of conservative, backward-looking options. In addition relations between the Church and dissident movements are strained. This ambiguous situation might well render the role of Catholics in the post-Castrist transition more uncertain, even though the Church’s expertise will be required for national reconciliation to take place.