[IWAR] CUBA Pope's visit

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Thu Jan 15 1998 - 10:55:27 PST

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    Does Castro have the slightest idea how the Pope impacted Poland? --MW
                   Pope's Cuba trip causes anguish, division in Miami
          Copyright ) 1998 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1998 Reuters
       MIAMI (January 15, 1998 12:31 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - Nowhere
       is Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba causing more anguish than in Miami,
       where it has raised expectation and trepidation among Cuban Americans
       over what it means for their Communist-ruled homeland's future.
       The pontiff's trip starting next Wednesday has also sown division in a
       community which clings to the hope of one day returning to a Cuba free
       of President Fidel Castro's rule.
       Their dilemma lies in the hope that Pope John Paul will be a catalyst
       for change and the fear that his presence in Havana will lend legitimacy
       to Castro's government.
       "There is certainly a lot of apprehension and ambivalence. They don't
       know whether to be for or against it," Bishop Thomas Wenski of Miami's
       Roman Catholic Archdiocese told Reuters.
       "Certainly the sight of Castro and the pope shaking hands will be a
       bitter pill to swallow. We are dealing with highly emotional issues. The
       Cubans here are a wounded people."
       Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have settled in Florida after fleeing
       Cuba since Castro's 1959 revolution. Miami is the center of exile
       organizations dedicated to his overthrow.
       The charged debate over the pope's trip reveals strong differences on
       how a transition in Cuba might be achieved.
       A storm of controversy raged when the Archdiocese began organizing a
       pilgrimage from Miami to Havana by cruise ship led by Archbishop John
       Favalora. More than 400 Catholic faithful signed up for the trip, which
       would have culminated in their attending the pope's mass on Jan. 25 in
       Revolution Square.
       But last month right-wing exiles, among them prominent businessmen,
       forced it to be canceled.
       While the church said it wanted to show solidarity with Cuban faithful,
       hardliners said such a trip was morally wrong while Castro remained in
       power. In the end the Archdiocese arranged for about 180 people to fly
       to Havana on a one-day charter flight for the Jan. 25 mass.
       "The Cuban American community has two minds," said Max Castro of the
       University of Miami's North-South Center.
       "They hope the pope's visit will start a groundswell, like in Poland.
       But they must swallow the pope's cordial contacts with Castro, his de
       facto acceptance of the state and the possibility it will help
       legitimize the government."
       Exiles fear the pope's words could discredit U.S. policy and increase
       support for easing the 35-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba.
       Wenski said that in the eyes of many Cuban Americans, the Catholic
       Church in Cuba was a lackey of the government. But Pope John Paul wanted
       to strengthen the church and Favalora was anxious to show solidarity
       with it, he said.
       The pontiff also wanted to build up the church to be a force in an
       eventual transition in Cuba and offset the Cuban army, so far the only
       strong alternative entity, Wenski said.
       Some hardline exiles covet a prominent role themselves and do not
       welcome competition even from the church, he said.
       Exile groups plan to take advantage of the pope's visit to focus
       attention on what they see as political oppression in Cuba.
       The Cuban American National Foundation, the most powerful organization,
       has issued a graphic poster featuring a dead refugee child as part of
       its campaign.
       "It is also important that this visit serve to bring the attention of
       the world to the inequities and the lack of freedom prevalent in our
       homeland, and not the opposite," CANF president Francisco Hernandez
       said. "The pope should talk in Cuba in the same way that he spoke in
       The Democracy Movement plans to take a flotilla of boats and airplanes
       to international waters and airspace off Havana on Jan. 24, where exiles
       will conduct a prayer service. It said some of its members would try to
       land in Cuba without visas to attend Pope John Paul II's Mass.
       Even singer Gloria Estefan, Cuban Miami's favorite daughter, has had her
       say, turning down an approach from the church to sing in Havana for the
       "We will never sing in Cuba while Fidel Castro's regime exists," she
       A series of small bomb explosions have hit Havana and tourist areas in
       the past 12 months, killing one person. The Cuban government has blamed
       Miami-based exile groups.
       The CANF says it condones but will not itself use violence to overthrow
       Castro. Paramilitary groups such as Alpha 66 still conduct military
       training in the Florida Everglades but no group has overtly spoken of
       disrupting the pope's trip with violence.
       "It will be a blow to the older generation of exiles if there's not an
       apocalyptic collapse of the Castro government. But I'm sure the pope
       will say something to give them comfort," Max Castro said.

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