“I read all the speeches of the pope, his commentaries, and if the pope continues this way [blasting capitalism], I will go back to praying and go back to the church. I’m not joking.” Raul Castro, Communist dictator of Cuba
Not everyone gets an hour-long audience with the pope, as Raúl Castro did this past Sunday at the Vatican. But Raúl Castro isn’t everyone. Raúl is the president of Cuba and the heir to his brother’s half-century-old Communist dictatorship. And right now, Raúl is hot.
Raúl Castro is taking meetings with everyone from President Barack Obama in Panama last month to Pope Francis in Rome last weekend. Then he returned to Havana for a meeting with President François Hollande of France, who flew in to see him and Fidel. How good can it get?
“President” Castro is in some sense an honorific title. When Raúl ran for president of Cuba for the first time in 2008, he was the only candidate. And while the Communist Party isn’t the only party in Cuba, the others can’t campaign, and political speech is forbidden. One might argue that the Castros’ Cuba is the model for how Vladimir Putin has reset the Russian political system.
A beaming, star-struck Mr. Hollande on Monday received a one-hour audience (there is no other word) with the 88-year-old Fidel. The French president said, “I had before me a man who made history.”
“Bienvenido!” said Pope Francis to Raúl Sunday when they met at the Vatican. “Welcome!” The Vatican press office didn’t release details of the meeting, other than to describe it as “very friendly.” Continue reading