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Still, the cardinal’s problems are not limited to Miami. Several prominent dissidents have been critical in recent weeks.

Guillermo Farinas, a hunger striker and winner of Europe’s 2010 Sakharov prize, has called the cardinal a sellout.

Martha Beatriz Roque, a former political prisoner, accused him of bowing his head before the government.

Cardinal Ortega met for more than three hours on June 7 with members of the island’s best-known opposition group, the Ladies in White, in an effort to clear the air. Ladies leader Bertha Soler said that she was satisfied with the meeting and that the cardinal “was very receptive.”

But she made clear that she would keep pressure on the cardinal to advocate on her group’s behalf, saying: “Our main objective here is for the cardinal to know that we are women who get thrown in jail and suffer repression.”

Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor of religious history at the University of Havana who has known Cardinal Ortega for many years, said the church’s defensiveness is a symptom of the difficult role in which it finds itself in a country with no traditional opposition parties or independent institutions.

“The cardinal has insisted the church is not a political party, but in Cuba there are no political alternatives, so like it or not, that is the role the church has assumed,” he said.

“To me, it is a political defense of an institution that is preparing to have a role, as far as it is able, in a post-Castro era. They must be very careful with each step.”