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Guest Contribution - Sovereign Grand Commander of Cuba Challenges Cuban Government on Human Rights

Blog Disclaimer: The following article does not represent the statements or opinions of any Grand Lodge or Jurisdiction, and are solely those of the author, except where otherwise indicated.


By Marty Dagoberto, P:. M:.


The Masonic Fraternity is in the spotlight in Cuba, as the country is gripped by a degree of civil unrest unseen since the communist revolution took power there over 60 years ago. Amidst the violent repression of dissent, the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the Republic of Cuba has taken a public stance in defense of human rights and is drawing the ire of the communist government and its supporters. The attention of the global Masonic community may insulate our brethren from harm as the situation develops.


Sovereign Grand Commander José Ramón Viñas Alonso

On Friday, July 16th, 2021, days after the historic nationwide protests, the Sovereign Grand Commander, Brother José Ramón Viñas Alonso issued an official letter to the President of Cuba on behalf of the Supreme Council, denouncing the violent repression of the protests. Hours later he was summoned to the state police station, questioned and subsequently released to meet a crowd of prominent Freemasons waiting outside the building. Had he not had the level of prominence and support of influential men, Cuban brethren speculate that would not have been released so easily. Brother Alonso’s status as a public figure has shielded him from direct harm, for now.


Photo: Claudia Montero

Caption: “When I left [the interrogation] it was one of the greatest joys of my life as a cloud of brothers was waiting for me.”- Brother Alonso, being met by brothers as he left the police station.


In Brother Alonso’s letter addressed to Díaz-Canel, he rejected the President’s leadership “for calling, inciting and ordering a violent confrontation against the Cuban people, as well as arrests and violence against peaceful protesters and citizens who are against the system that you represent.” (See original letter in Spanish, below). The letter also rejected the constant justification of the crisis in Cuba as being due to “external reasons” (the embargo), “without recognizing the responsibility and ineffectiveness of the government.”


The original letter in Spanish is copied below:


For anyone not living in Cuba, it may be impossible to understand the complexities of the challenges they face. The Cuban Masons, with whom the author is in constant contact, emphasize the necessity for the Cuban people to be allowed to solve their problems on their own terms. They ask for our attention and our solidarity with their own self-determination in this process. While opinions among Cubans vary widely regarding the path forward, the broad majority are calling for greater economic opportunity and freedom. With greater global attention, the threat of violent repression during these uprisings will be greatly diminished.


According to Masonic sources within Cuba, at the time of writing (July 21, 2021) as many as 400 protesters who took part in the July 11th demonstrations are “missing.” They say that if a person goes into the street and shouts “Libertad!” (liberty! - the rally cry of the protests) they will likely be arrested and be sentenced to 8 years in prison. The military is going door to door to conscript young men into service, against their free will, to “defend the revolution.” Videos and photos of the violent repression of protesters are captured and spread on social media under the threat of imprisonment.


“I think that in the history of this communist dictatorship it is the first time that Freemasonry has been so forward with the regime,” says journalist Camila Acosta [translated*], who is currently writing a book entitled “Del templo al templete: Silencios y escándalos de la Masonería cubana” (“From temple to temple. Silences and scandals of Cuban Freemasonry”). “When Fidel Castro came to power, the freemasons were among those repressed, shot, many were forced to flee the country,” Acosta continued.


Despite initial suppression early in the Castro regime, the fraternity was allowed to reemerge. Many believe that it is because Freemasonry was so interwoven into the fabric of the Cuban national identity that the regime, which seized power in 1959, ultimately allowed our Gentle Craft to persist. Today, Cuba the only communist country where Freemasonry operates “above ground.”


Freemasons in Cuba have played an integral role in the island’s fight against tyranny since it was a colony under Spanish rule. Virtually all of the national heroes who led the Wars of Independence - so highly revered as to approach apotheosis - were known to be Freemasons, including Céspedes, García, Gómez, Maceo and Martí (“Presente!”).


Today, the Masonic Fraternity in Cuba is quite strong. The title of “Freemason” still carries significant weight among Cubans and men are willing to wait years to prove their worth to members of the Order. For the Supreme Council to take such a strong stance at this moment is undoubtedly influencing the conversation in Cuba.


Brethren may follow the personal Facebook account of Brother Alonso, here, as the situation develops.


Sources for this article include personal Masonic contacts and quotes pulled from the following article:


July 17,2021. Montero, Claudia. “Régimen interroga a líder masón cubano por carta enviada a Díaz-Canel” Retrieved July 21st 2021 from http://noticiasdenuevaesparta.blogspot.com/2021/07/regimen-interroga-lider-mason-cubano.html, translated using Google Translate and the authors own translation.


[*Original Spanish passage quoted above - “Creo que en la historia de esta dictadura comunista es la primera ocasión en que la masonería ha sido tan frontal con el régimen. Cuando llegó Fidel Castro al poder, los masones estuvieron entre las personas reprimidas, fusiladas, muchos se vieron obligados a huir del país, también fueron presos políticos, expresa la periodista Camila Acosta, quien en estos momentos escribe un libro que llevará por título Del templo al temple. Silencios y escándalos de la Masonería cubana.]


The author is a Master Mason from the Grand Jurisdiction of Massachusetts A.F.&A.M. and the son of a Cuban refugee. He has travelled extensively in Cuba since 2013 and has presented on his travels before the Massachusetts Lodge of Research and The Masonic Roundtable (Ep. 234).


The statements contained in this article do not reflect the statements or opinions of any Masonic body other than those indicated (eg. The Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree in Cuba).


###


TRANSLATION OF LETTER IN SPANISH


To: Miguel Díaz Cannel Bermúdez


President of the Republic of Cuba


From: Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the Republic of Cuba


We are writing to you with the purpose of informing you of our rejection of your position and leadership at the head of the country, for calling, inciting and ordering a violent confrontation against the Cuban people, as well as arrests and violence against peaceful protesters and citizens who are against the system that you represent. At the same time, we declare our disagreement to always justify the crisis in which the country is plunged due to external reasons (Blockade), without recognizing the responsibility and ineffectiveness of the government.


88 years ago in the government of General Gerardo Machado Morales this same Supreme Council wrote to the president demanding the violence against the people, worthy heirs today do the same, this social outbreak throughout the island shows the manifest disagreement in which the country lives , the members of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the Republic of Cuba, being part of the Institution that in its time most influenced the independence and society of this country, we have the prestige and history as guarantors and thus assume our position of the side of the Cuban people.


Without considering in these lines disrespect for his high inauguration as president of the country, but a sincere and necessary position.


Painfully,


José Ramón Viñas Alonso


The Grand Commander immediately received an “official citation" from the Ministry of the Interior, directing him to appear at a local police station. Such a citation usually indicates that one is in significant trouble, likely facing incarceration.


The historical narratives and factors driving the desperate situation in Cuba are hotly debated by highly emotional factions and are not the subject of this article. The author instead wishes to convey an account of how the Masonic fraternity in Cuba is operating in this historic time.


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