Cuba quashes hopes for reform as Pope Benedict meets Raul Castro
Pope Benedict and Cuban President Raul Castro have met for talks on a papal trip that has sparked hopes for economic and political change, but one national leader said there would be no political reform on the communist island.
Cuban television showed the pope and Castro in the Palace of the Revolution on Tuesday at the beginning and end of an hour-long meeting, but they did not speak to the press. A Vatican spokesman said former leader Fidel Castro, who may or may not meet with Benedict, did not attend the talks.
Benedict arrived for what is the second papal trip to Cuba in history at a time when Raul Castro has initiated reforms boosting private enterprise and reducing the state’s role. His aim is to strengthen the country’s struggling Soviet-style economy and assure the future of communism.
Some Cubans have expressed hope that economic changes would be accompanied by political change in the country where the only legal political party is the Communist Party, but Marino Murillo, a vice president in the Council of Ministers and the country’s economic reforms czar, told reporters that was not in the cards.
“In Cuba there won’t be political reform,” he said in a press conference at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, the international press center for the pope visit.