Cuban pastors in Miami react to death of Fidel Castro

Baptist World Alliance leaders visit with Cuban President Fidel Castro during a July 8, 2000, meeting in Havana. (Baptist Press file photo/Jim Veneman)Cuban pastors in Miami have expressed a range on emotions regarding the death of Fidel Castro, the communist dictator who governed the island nation from 1959 to 2006.

Castro, who instituted a regime of oppression and little-to-no religious freedom, passed away in the early morning hours of Nov. 25.

Many of the Cuban diaspora in Miami celebrated the politician’s death in popular Cuban spots like Versailles Restaurant in Calle Ocho and in front of Westland Mall in Hialeah.

But for Cuban pastors Castro’s death is not a reason for rejoicing. Instead they see it as the symbolic end of an era.

“Ojala esto signifique cambio hacia mas libertad de expresión y de religion,” said Natanael Vicens, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección in Miami. Or in English: “I hope this means more freedom of expression and religion.”

Retired Pastor Jose Molliner, was frank in his feelings about the dictator’s death, saying, “Sinceramente creo hay un espacio libre para otro ser humano que tenga mas derecho a la vida que el que ya partio.”

That translates to, “I honestly believe there is now more free space for a human being that has more right to life than the one who recently passed.”

Molliner, like other Cuban pastors in the 1960s, suffered hardships for his Christian beliefs, including being forced into work camps and military service.

For Pablo Miret, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Discipulos de Cristo, the importance of Castro’s death lies not in the fact that he is dead, but that despite all the negative things he subjected the Cuban people to there is still hope.

In a Facebook post he wrote: “Lo que realmente mueve a los que vivimos esta experiencia, dentro y fuera de Cuba, es la esperanza de un futuro mejor.” Meaning: “What truly moves those of us who lived the communist experience in and outside of Cuba is the hope of a better future.”

And while these pastors are hopeful that a new and freer Cuba will emerge they remain realistic.

“Desde luego sabemos que esto no va a ser el fin de todo” said Vicens. “Esta su hermano en el poder y aun si no estuviera el hay muchos otros que están comprometidos con este tipo de sistema.”

“Of course we know that [Castro’s death] is not the end of everything. His brother [Raul] is in power, and even if he was not there are many others in line committed to keeping such a system going.”

Related story: South Florida Baptists remember 50th anniversary of arrests of Cuban Christians

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