Fidel and Religion


Fidel & Religion: Conversations with Frei Betto on Marxism & Liberation Theology
Fidel Castro and Frei Betto
2006, Ocean Press
292 pages

WHEN published in 1985, the first edition in Spanish of Fidel and Religion was a key factor in subsequent changes to the statutes of the Cuban Communist Party that would open the doors to those who professed religious faith. It was a small but significant landmark, because it spoke of a reconciliation between the two most potent progressive ideologies of contemporary Latin America: revolutionary socialism and liberation theology. In this volume, the then Cuban leader and Frei Betto, a renowned Dominican friar and an expert on liberation theology, discuss what these two strains of radical thought and the two belief traditions have in common and what makes them distinct. As Betto writes: “This book caused a veritable revolution within the revolution … Why? Because the book was about freedom of religion in Cuban socialism. It was the first time that a communist leader in office had spoken positively about religion and admitted that it, too, could help to change reality, revolutionise a country, overthrow oppression, and establish justice.” [pp. 5-6] It remains a key debate, for Castro himself was shaped by the Catholic tradition and, as Betto points out, the Cuban people are deeply religious, and other forms of non-secular syncretism with the Christian tradition exist in the form of Afro-Caribbean Santería. As the priest also suggests, Christians cannot choose the social regime in which they will work. They must simply find a way of evangelising – and struggling on behalf of the poorest people – within the system they inhabit. This book goes a significant way towards establishing the parameters of those aspirations. – EC

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