by Christopher Hodapp
I received a message from a Brother in Texas last week alerting me that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba had just defected to the United States. He and his wife traveled to Mexico, purportedly on vacation, and crossed into the U.S. at the Texas border where they requested asylum. The Grand Lodge of Florida provided financial assistance to the couple, and they were helped locally by officers from a lodge in Brownsville, Texas.
They will be staying with relatives in the U.S. while getting settled.
The story was confirmed this week. The Grand Lodge of Cuba issued a statement yesterday saying he had "abandoned his mission" and "escaped" to Mexico. And the now-immediate Past Grand Master himself – Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal (photo above) – issued a long, public letter explaining his reasons for resigning his position from the Grand Lodge, and for leaving Cuba behind.
For obvious reasons, his name was withheld from the message I received. But just as I sat down today to post it, the following article appeared today on the Translating Cuba website, translated by Regina Anavy.
Cat's out of the bag now, so I'm not breaking anyone's trust by posting his name.
From: "The Grand Master of the Freemasons of Cuba Denounces a ‘Coup d’état’ of Cuban Counterintelligence"
Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, second on the left,
along with José Ramón Viñas Alonso, first on the right,
and two other master masons, at an event in Veracruz, Mexico.
(Facebook/José Ramón Viñas)
14ymedio, Havana, 3 January 2023 — Master Freemason Francisco Javier Alfonso Vidal, leader until Tuesday of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, reported in a public letter the reasons that led him to quit his position and leave the country. Signed in the “Greater East” of the United States, a country where he has applied for asylum with his wife, and addressed to his temporary substitute, Armando Guerra Lozano, the letter denounces the infiltration of State Security into the Cuban Masonic leadership and his intention, for several months, to remove himself from his post.
On Tuesday, the Grand Lodge of Cuba published a circular in which it explained that Alfonso Vidal had not returned from Mexico, where he was a guest of the Freemasons of Veracruz, and described his escape as an “unexpected and masonically regrettable event.”
From the United States, the former Grand Master defends himself from those who accuse him of “abandoning his mission” and recalls that he was elected as a representative of the Cuban Freemasonry in an “unquestionable” ceremony from the legal point of view, in addition to pointing out that at no time did he violate the Masonic principles of succession, as say the Masons infiltrated by State Security, he alleges. He clarifies that he is leaving because of the impossibility of fulfilling his duty, as defined by the Masonic statutes, with the “total transparency, autonomy and necessary freedom.”
The position of Grand Master, assumed at the moment by Armando Guerra Lozano — in accordance with Decree 634, the last one signed by Alfonso Vidal — carries the responsibility of remaining in the position until the celebration of a partial election during an extraordinary session of the Masonic directors.
However, says Alfonso Vidal, there is a faction related to the Government of Havana within the Grand Lodge, managed by counterintelligence officers, which intends to place in office — in violation of the legislation, he says — a candidate favorable to the regime.
“I am aware that my dismissal from office was being orchestrated through an Extraordinary Session in order to create a fictitious circumstance for Deputy Grand Master H. Fernando González García to illegally occupy the position,” Alfonso Vidal denounced in his letter.
González García, according to the Grand Lodge circular, was also abroad, but will return, they say, on January 5. The former Grand Master suspects that his return is motivated by that goal.
Alfonso Vidal considers that the special circular of the institution — initialed, in fact, by his substitute — was out of place and manifests a “total contempt for the Masonic Legislation,” in addition to manipulating his decision not to return to Cuba and labeling his attitude as “bad.” To say, moreover, that they had not communicated with him in the last two weeks is not a “coherent motivation” to assume his resignation without a document issued by the former Grand Master himself.
“What was the ’serious abandonment of the position and functions entrusted’ if all witnesses can attest that I participated in every day of work in our friendly power [the Mexican lodge]? They don’t have an honest answer, I know,” he says.
The former leader of the Freemasons questions those who try to effect what, in his opinion, is a “coup d’état,” with the intervention of counterintelligence agents of the regime “who claim to be Freemasons.” “Everyone and each of those who find themselves signing, looking for support, trying to win the support of representatives, lodges, opinion leaders, who spent days trying to send me an intimidating message, all are collaborators and perpetrators of the crime of treason to Freemasonry and will pay,” he denounced in his letter.
The extensive document also describes in great detail the “attacks” on Cuban Freemasonry in recent months, and relates them to the active work of several of its members in denouncing government repression during the protests of July 11, 2021 and those of the summer of 2022.
He mentions, for example, the open letter to Díaz-Canel sent by Master José Ramón Viñas Alonso, in which he offered “his opinion on the call for confrontation between Cubans that made everything worse,” earning him pressure from State Security to make a retraction.
Another case is that of his predecessor in the position of Grand Master, Ernesto Zamora, who refused to attend a meeting with Díaz-Canel from which they intended to exclude José Ramón Viñas Alonso, whom the authorities had “regulated*” shortly before, preventing him from traveling to the United States.
And finally, in December 2021, Alfonso Vidal recalls, the regime considered intolerable the intervention of Grand Speaker Luis Steve Ocaña in which he invited Cuban Freemasons to get involved in politics.
“When one is elected to Grand Master it’s not all that one imagines it to be, with the pressure that it represents to be in charge of the fraternal destiny of more than twenty thousand brothers. Obstacles appear that one has to overcome,” Alfonso Vidal said in defense.
“The fact that the Sovereign Grand Commander [José Ramón Viñas Alonso] became a nuisance for the Cuban Government and the organs of repression, and seeing that he received in many cases expressions of support that were not only Masonic but also from outside the order, State Security went on a mission to take him out of the middle,” he explained.
The short-term intention, says Alfonso Vidal, was to force him, as Grand Master, to expel Viñas Alonso from the order “under some pretext.” He also said that he had mentioned this situation to Viñas Alonso on a trip they made together abroad — once their ban was lifted — “because I did not consider it safe to do so inside Cuba.”
Faced with his refusal to accede to the pressures of counterintelligence — an individual who identified himself as Poll made more than 70 intimidating phone calls in one day — Alfonso Vidal made the decision not to go out without company. In addition, he received several police summonses, in which an officer told him that for more than 40 years State Security has been working on Cuban Freemasonry with its infiltrators.
Fernando González García, the current Deputy Grand Master who will return to Cuba on January 5 “running to comply with orders” is one of those agents, in the opinion of the former dignitary. Other members of the Masonic leadership are part of the “conspiracy” against José Ramón Viñas Alonso, he says: Ernesto Zamora, whom he accuses of having apologized to the Communist Party for his opposition to Díaz-Canel, and the current treasurer of the Great Lodge, Ernesto Navarrete, who “is a policeman,” and who he suggests is managing the Masonic funds in an irregular way.
Taking advantage of a business trip to a lodge in Veracruz, he and his wife decided to request political asylum in the United States, alleging that they have suffered systematic harassment by State Security in its “masonic hunt.” His son, however, remains in Cuba. For his part, says Alfonso Vidal, José Ramón Viñas Alonso — the main objective of counterintelligence — is “resisting harassment.”
*Translator’s note: “Regulated,” as the term is used by the government, means forbidden to leave the country.
The last substantial news out of Cuba was about conflicts with the government about the grand lodge building, which is an imposing part of the Havana skyline. Apparently part of the building was or is occupied by government offices. The survival of Masonry in Cuba has certainly been a phenomena.ReplyDelete
I am a Canadian Mason living in Mexico. I belong to an English speaking Lodge and publish a monthly educational newsletter from that Lodge. At a Zoom meeting a few months back with Canadian brethren a paper was done about Cuban Masonry. In that Canadians can travel there (directly) they were encouraging guys to go and to take items of regalia with them for the Masons in Cuba.ReplyDelete
I then got a write-up with beautiful photos on one guy's trip which just today I was putting into my newsletter for March. When I got it done I had a couple of pages to fill and I thought I would go to your web site to see what was new (giving you full credit of course Chris for anything I use) and I ran into this piece.
I took a couple of hours to think about everything and must admit that when I served as Secretary/Treasurer of my Lodge in Canada (for 14 years) I would advise any Brother travelling to check the Regularity of any Lodge they were planning to visit and actually thought at the time (from 1995 to 2009) that ALL Lodges in Cuba were clandestine... and still do!
I have decided to put out the nice piece out in March and April (too long for one newsletter) and watch carefully how this proceeds.
Thank you for your coverage on these subjects Chris.