By Katharine Fisher
As Pope Benedict XVI concluded his visit to Cuba last week, news articles have intimated that the pontiff’s presence may pave the way for greater democratic freedom on the island. After his comments prior to the visit declaring Marxism an unfit system for political rule, the Pope’s homilies in Santiago de Cuba and Havana featured calls for political change and greater respect for basic freedoms. In meetings with the Castro brothers, however, Benedict did not appear to raise any controversial issues. Rather than using his authority (which has waxed and waned in Cuba as a result of the government’s eschewing religion after the 1959 Revolution) to engage in meaningful, spirited discussions with Cuban leaders, the Pope seemed hesitant. The Cuban revolutionary government has ruled the island for over fifty years, managing to withstand American encroachment, significant international pressure, and devastating economic sanctions to stay in power.