Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba will not produce much change, but everybody -- the Pope, the Cuban military regime, dissidents and Cuban exiles -- can claim a semblance of victory from the high-profile event. The key question is who won the most.
Gen. Raúl Castro, the Cuban leader, and his brother
By receiving Benedict and giving him a welcome speech that was broadcast live at home and abroad, Raúl Castro got a unique opportunity to lash out at
At the same time, Raúl Castro's attendance at the pope's Mass at
Cuba's octogenarian leaders are eager to convince the world that Cuba is changing. They are worried that
Benedict, in turn, most likely accomplished his goal of expanding the reach of Cuba's
And while his message that "Cuba and the world need change" echoed
He stated shortly before the visit that Marxist ideology "no longer corresponds to reality" -- something obvious to most of us, but a bold statement in Cuba -- and repeatedly called for truth, liberty and reconciliation during his Mass on Wednesday in
Cuba's peaceful dissidents, such as the Ladies in White, who are pleading for the release of all political prisoners and had asked for a one-minute meeting with the pope -- at the time of this writing Wednesday evening appeared not to have been granted their request -- but they won by default anyway: the whole world could see the repressive nature of the Cuban dictatorship during the pope's visit.
At least 210 peaceful dissidents were arrested shortly before the pope's arrival to prevent them from showing up at his public meetings, according to human rights groups. And one dissident who shouted "down with communism" during the pope's Mass in
Cuban exiles, in turn, showed their countrymen on the island that a big portion of the Cuban exile community seeks a peaceful national reconciliation, and are not part of a sinister "terrorist mafia" bent on revenge that the Cuban regime portrays them to be. About 800 Cuban exiles went to the island with a pilgrimage organized by the Archdiocese of
My opinion: Unless we learn in coming days that the pope did meet with the Ladies in White, the Vatican would have made a big mistake by not giving them at least the one-minute they were seeking. The Vatican has said that the pope is very much aware of their plight, but that there was not time in his agenda. Yet, the Vatican found time for the pope to hold an unscheduled 30-minute meeting Wednesday with
In the end, everybody won something with the pope's visit. We'll have to call it a technical tie, although it would have been nice if the pope had matched his words with actions, and had met with all sectors of Cuba's society -- not just with its rulers.
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