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Pope Arrives In Havana, Where He's Expected To Meet Raúl Castro

Pope Benedictus XVI arrives at Jose Marti airport in Havana on Tuesday.
Marcelino Vazquez
AFP/Getty Images
Pope Benedictus XVI arrives at Jose Marti airport in Havana on Tuesday.

Pope Benedict XVI landed in Havana today and he's expected meet Cuban President Raúl Castro.

The pontiff's visit has put Cuba's dictatorship in the spotlight, because during his speeches the Pope has been taking subtle shots at the regime. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Benedict has been using his trip, only the second time a pontiff has visited the communist-ruled island, to deliver a subtle but pointed message on behalf of change and human rights. On Monday, during an open-air Mass attended by thousands, he told Cubans to build "an open society, a better society." And he has said Cuba's Marxist model is outdated.

"Raul Castro, in welcoming the pope Monday to Santiago, defended (link in Spanish) the regime's careful economic transition. 'The nation is invariably continuing to change everything that needs to be changed, in keeping with the highest aspirations of the Cuban people,' he said.

The Miami Herald reports that Cuba's minister of economy and planning had less diplomatic words.

"In Cuba there will not be political reform," Marino Alberto Murillo Jorge told a room full of foreign journalists, according to The Miami Herald.

The Times reports that it's not yet clear how hard the pope will press Castro on human rights during their meetings.

The Herald adds that the next thing to watch for is an expected protest from The Ladies in White, "a small movement of women who wear white and gather at Masses at Catholic churches in Cuba to protest the treatment of the island's prisoners of conscience."

The group said it expects to make an appearance on Wednesday along the papal route.

As we reported, Cuban authorities arrested about three dozen supporters of the group earlier this month.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.