Pope John Paul repeated his condemnation of the U.S. economic embargo against Communist-ruled Cuba on Saturday, saying the island nation needed proper conditions for its development.
The Pope, who has spoken out against the embargo in the past, made his comments at a ceremony at which Havana’s new ambassador to the Vatican (news - web sites) presented his credentials.
“The Holy See strongly desires that obstacles which block free communication and exchange between the Cuban nation and part of the international community be overcome soon, thus reinforcing through respectful and open dialogue with everyone, the conditions necessary for real development,” he said.
The Bush administration intensified Washington’s embargo against Cuba last year, restricting visits by Cuban emigres to their families. Havana responded by banning the use of the U.S. dollar in Cuba.
The 84-year-old Pope, who made an historic visit to Cuba in 1998, also made a reference to human rights, calling for a dialogue among “all groups that make up the Cuban people.”
Last year the Cuban government was furious when some EU embassies invited Cuban opposition figures to their cocktail parties to protest against a crackdown on dissent and other human rights violations.
The practice so incensed President Fidel Castro (news - web sites)‘s communist government that it shut its doors to European diplomats, shunned ambassadors and did not return telephone calls.
The diplomatic deadlock ended last week after EU member states’ embassies decided to make their contacts with Cuban dissidents more discreet but not to abandon them.
Cuba denies it has political prisoners and labels all dissidents “counter-revolutionary mercenaries” funded by the United States to undermine its socialist system.