Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pope and Cuba

There is a lot of attention on the Pope's visit to Cuba. Is this a watershed moment for Cuban dissidents? Is there too little pressure on the regime? What does this mean in the longer term for human rights in Cuba?

In large part, this reflects a need to have a narrative. The Pope's visit must cause something, or not cause something. Unfortunately this narrative means that everyone will be disappointed.

There is change going on in Cuba but it's very slow. There is really nothing the Pope could do to speed it up. He could be frank in his message (which we may well do) and that won't speed things up. He could meet with dissidents (which as I understand he won't) and it wouldn't speed things up, though that would provide at least a symbolic boost to the opposition. Therefore it's extremely unlikely that there will be a concrete result that people are hoping to see.

Meanwhile, the Pope is also expected to criticize the U.S. embargo. Naturally, that will not sit well with many in the United States, and so I expect to read plenty of complaints in that regard.

Likely outcome: the Pope has a message that is mostly religious rather than political. He talks about human rights but downplays direct criticism of the Cuban government. Overall, he has something to say that gets under the skin of just about everyone but not in a way that sparks rapid change.


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