Embargo, Human Rights Top Pope’s Cuba Trip Agenda

Embargo, Human Rights Top Pope’s Cuba Trip AgendaEmbargo, Human Rights Top Pope’s Cuba Trip Agenda

The Vatican said on Thursday it hoped Pope Francis’s trip to Cuba would help bring an end to a 53-year-old US embargo and lead to more freedom and human rights on the communist island.

The pope will spend four days in Cuba before flying to the United States. He is visiting both countries for the first time as pontiff, after Vatican mediation led to a restoration of ties between Washington and Havana last year.

In an interview with Vatican Television, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy See had always opposed the trade and economic embargo against Cuba because it hurt ordinary people most, Reuters reports.

“It is hoped ... that a measure like this (ending the embargo) will also bring with it a greater openness from the point of view of freedom and human rights,” Parolin said.

He said the Vatican hoped for “a flowering of these fundamental aspects for the life of persons and peoples”.

The comments by Parolin, known as the “deputy pope” because he is second only to Francis in the Vatican hierarchy, appeared to be hints that the pope would speak about the embargo as well as about human rights while in Cuba.

 First Ambassador in 50 years

Veteran diplomat Jose Cabanas on Thursday became Cuba’s first ambassador to the United States in 54 years, thanks to the recent rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.

Cabanas, who ran Havana’s de facto embassy or “Interests Section” in Washington since 2012 and became charge d’affaires when relations were formally restored on July 20, presented his credentials to US President Barack Obama.

“The Cuban ambassador’s accreditation to the United States is a further step within the process to normalize relations between both countries,” it added, saying Cabanas and Obama discussed the state of bilateral relations.

Washington has yet to name an ambassador to Cuba.

The two states had been without formal diplomatic relations since 1961, two years after the revolution that brought former president Fidel Castro to power.