The question about this papal mediation is whether the peace pipe to be smoked between Obama and the Castro brothers, with a sui generis blend of Vatican incense and Castro snuff, will serve to rescue the Cuban people or rather their communist dictatorship.
On Wednesday, December 17, 2014, media around the world reported that the United States government and the Cuban regime simultaneously announced the resumption of diplomatic relations and the opening of negotiations to restore trade relations as a result of mediation by Pope Francis. The announcement was made at the same time by President Obama and Dictator Raul Castro.
Recalling some of this issue’s background, albeit succinctly, may help us understand how we have arrived at this juncture.
The Cuban people have been continuously oppressed by the Castro dictatorship in a never-ending nightmare of 56 years. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and soon after the Iron Curtain collapsed, the days of the Castro dictatorship seemed numbered because it was the Soviet Union that financed the communist regime in Havana. But the Venezuelan government, first with Hugo Chavez and later with Maduro, managed to replace Soviet financing. The Castro dictatorship managed to survive and the Cuban people remained enslaved.
However, with the oil crisis and the political crisis, Venezuela has entered a process of disintegration. With oil prices plummeting, the Venezuelan regime is no longer able to sustain itself, let alone the Castro dictatorship. Once again, the island’s communist regime found itself in a hopeless situation: either some government with substantial finances replaced Venezuela or the days of the dictatorship would be numbered.
It is in this context that a new possibility to rescue the communist regime would come from the place most reviled by Castro: the American “empire.” The resumption of diplomatic and trade relations between Washington and Havana could yield rivers of “imperialist” money which the regime will undoubtedly use and abuse to continue oppressing the Cuban people.
Now, someone can argue that this rapprochement has the “blessing” of Francis himself. So the United States would now take over the funding of the regime with Vatican support. And along with economic livelihood the U.S. would also provide “moral” support, a type of backing which liberation theologians have always given the jailers of the island-prison.
It is well to recall that trips to Cuba by two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI served in one way or another to consolidate the Cuban regime, regardless of the intentions of their illustrious protagonists. John Paul II’s call for “Cuba to open itself up to the world, and for the world to open up to Cuba” has been only half-fulfilled, and in a biased fashion. Indeed, the world opened up to the Cuban regime but gave its back to the Cuban people. A tragic effect of this is the continuity of the Castro dictatorship to the present day. Every year, the United Nations General Assembly almost unanimously condemns the so-called American “embargo” of the Castro regime. The UN condemns the U.S. “embargo” but does not say a word about the very cause of the problem, which is the 56-years old “embargo” by the communist dictatorship against its own enslaved people. Nor did Benedict XVI’s trip to Cuba bring the expected fruits of liberty. “Crowded squares, crowded jails,” tweeted opposition journalist Yoani Sanchez on the occasion.
Now Francis’ diplomatic mediation enters the stage. The question to ask about this papal mediation is whether the peace pipe to be smoked between Obama and the Castro brothers, with a sui generis blend of Vatican incense and Castro snuff, will serve to rescue the Cuban people or rather their communist dictatorship.
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