This Week in the Caribbean Blogosphere

Activity in the Caribbean blogosphere this week has been predominantly coming from Cuba and its diaspora, as the country prepares for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI amidst frustration about the human rights situation on the island and dissatisfaction over the pontiff declining to meet members of the Cuban opposition during his stay.

Today, Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter reported that:

Two days after the Wall Street Journal published his essay on the Pope's upcoming visit to Cuba, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet is paid a visit today at his home in Havana. Elsa Morejon tweeting at 11:50am March 22, 2012 from Cuba: ‘Police are in my house; bring summons for Oscar.’

There have also been other reports of arrests ahead of the Pope's visit on Monday: Pedazos de la Isla gave accounts of two instances, here and here.

Other bloggers continued to denounce the Archbishop of Havana's decision to have church protesters forcibly removed. Lilianne Ruíz, blogging at Translating Cuba, argued that:

People have the right to peaceful protest to demand change. That which puts the situation in crisis is the Cuban government which does not want to be removed from its desperately sad power. And the Church is behaving more like a politician than as an institution protective of human rights. Because it seems that Cuba is condemned by the national — not universal — spirit: abuse, cowardice, boorishness.

babalu, meanwhile, focused on collecting last-minute signatures for the One Cuba petition to Pope Benedict XVI. In contrast, The Cuban Triangle thought that:

In a sense, the church is serving one function of a political opposition by pressing the government to form policies that serve the public good, and to keep its promises. But the church is anything but a political organization, and its public policy voice derives from what it conceives as its mission to look out not only for Cubans’ spiritual needs, but for their general welfare. As an editorial in a church publication put it, ideologies “should be at the service of the Cuban people, not the other way around.”

This role comes with its share of controversy. The church’s good offices were essential to the release of 130 political prisoners serving long sentences – reducing the number of prisoners of conscience recognized by Amnesty International to zero – but when all but twelve accepted an offer to leave for Spain with their families, the church was accused of weakening the political opposition and accommodating a form of government antithetical to Christianity.

This argument will not be resolved…Benedict is not likely to ‘open a new chapter in the history of Cuba,’ as Lech Walesa predicted dramatically last week. His embrace will be a vote of confidence in Cardinal Ortega and the Cuban church, and as the Vatican’s head of state he will applaud improved church-state relations in Havana. But he will leave it to the Cubans to make their own history.

The rest of the region, meanwhile, has been blogging about other issues. A common point of focus for diaspora bloggers from Jamaica was the killing of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin – a case that has reignited the issue of race relations in the United States. Geoffrey Philp, who lives in Florida himself, said:

As a father, I have tried to protect as best as I could from the evils of racism.

Sometimes, I know they thought that I was overdoing it. Maybe I did.

But now the killing of Trayvon Martin has brought racism home. Trayvon went to the same school as my children. Trayvon Martin could have been one of my children. Trayvon was killed and his only ‘crime’ was being black in America.

My heart goes out to Trayvon's parents. And there is nothing more that I can say. I can only grieve.

Philp's compatriot, Cucumber Juice, added:

That race (overwhelmingly) seems to be a factor in how Mr. Zimmerman perceived, classified, and treated Trayvon Martin makes this situation so much worse for me, a black Jamaican woman living in the United States.

I think that, generally, the outrage and protest epitomizes a need for justice as well as a frustration with the racism that still exists in the U.S. of A.

As a woman imagining and longing for the day when I have children and little by little preparing to send them out into to the world it angers me. And it scares me. Every time I hear this child’s mother on the radio the grief in her voice shakes me to the core. The grief etched on his father’s face is…indescribable.

As a human being it is appalling and completely unacceptable. There’s no excuse or justification. There is no comfort that can be offered to this boy’s family to ease the grief and loss that they must be feeling. Yet I won’t and can’t dismiss what I feel…as I can’t and won’t forget that as much as this is about racism, injustice, and the need for justice. Laws like this, situations like this, unaccountability for murders like this cannot be right.

Trinidad and Tobago‘s Bocas Lit Fest Blog was understandably focused on its hosting of the upcoming literary festival, while further north of the Caribbean archipelago, in Haiti, Haiti Grassroots Watch examined the apparent corruption surrounding the construction of more than 200 emergency shelters in the mountains above Léogâne, epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “POPE BENEDICT XVI in Portugal”, is by Catholic Church (England and Wales), used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Creative Commons license. Visit Catholic Church (England and Wales)'s flickr photostream.

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