Will the Pope's visit affect how two countries deal with each other?
January 28, 1998
in this forum:
Will the Pope's visit amount to any significant change in either U.S. policy or political and religious freedoms within Cuba? Why has the U.S. abandoned the policy of engagement in our own backyard? How does the U.S. hope to overcome the bitterness between the two countries? Is there any way to allow medicine into Cuba without changing the political goals of the embargo?
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The life and times of Cuban-American exile Jorge Mas Canosa.
October 16, 1997:
Thirty-five years later, the Cuban Missile Crisis is viewed as one of the "hottest" moments of the Cold War.
July 11, 1997:
The fight over the Helms-Burton Act and the embargo on Cuba.
March 5, 1997:
Sec. of State Warren Christopher discusses U.S. foreign policy regarding Cuba
Browse The NewsHour's Latin America Index.
Jak Leonard of Florida City, Florida, asks:
Watching the Holy Father at 79 years old and Fidel Castro at 71 years old this week certainly proves the fact that wisdom comes with age. Fidel Castro is definitely mellowing. But what will happen if he opens Cuba up to the West. That is what Gorbachev did, and look where he is today ...doing ads for Pizza Hut. Can Castro, Taco Bell and Bacardi be far behind ? After the Sunday mass in Revolution Square as Castro walked among the crowds it looked like he was electioneering to run for the Presidency in 2000. Am I that far off?
Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R-Florida), answers:
Yes, you are very far off. Castro wants the U.S. embargo lifted. That is why he let the Pope visit Cuba. The lifting of the embargo would mean countless billions of dollars in credits for his dictatorship.
Even during the Pope's masses, Castro arrested those who spoke out against the regime. When he releases political prisoners as tokens of appreciation for visitors, he soon fills his prisons once again with pro-democracy activists.
Don't be fooled by appearances, look at what Castro actually does. He is a classic Stalinist.
Cuban Ambassador Fernando Remirec answers:
The Cuban revolutionary process has its own historical roots, which allows it to stand on a solid base and with very popular support. The Revolution has provided our people with life in dignity. It is not a one-man process, but a process where millions of Cubans are working and giving the best of themselves to push our nation ahead.
Despite U.S. efforts to isolate our country, Cuba has always been open and we are today enjoying flowing relations with the rest of the world. This has allowed us to remain in permanent contact not only with the West, but also with the East, Africa and Latin America. Actually, Cuba has diplomatic relations with 165 countries. 90 countries have diplomatic missions in Cuba; a few days ago Cuba and Guatemala resumed diplomatic links. In regards with commerce, in 1997 we had commercial relations with 125 countries and more than 650 have offices in Cuba.
Likewise, we have been implementing a number of domestic economic measures and economic openness to foreign investment which instead of weakening the nation, have strengthened it and have given us confidence in the irreversibility of the process aimed at achieving the well-being and security of our people. That is the basic purpose of our system.
Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, answers:
The U.S. embargo sustains Castro in power. Cuba is an island - geographically and psychologically. Contact with the outside world, which the Pope called, for is in the best interests of the Cuban people, the U.S. and the world in general. Castro could probably win an election for president - so could Stroessner in Paraguay in the 1980s and many other dictators. But merely holding an election does not mean a nation is democratic.