Cuba is about to meet with God.
Or at least his representative, the Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared he will visit Cuba shortly before Easter in early 2012. Approximately eighty-five percent of the country is Roman Catholic so the papal visit is like Santa Claus coming to Christmas Party. The country is putting its best foot forward for the visit while going to great lengths to cover-up any blemishes. But like teenage acne, several sins mars country’s image. Their jails hold dozens of political prisoners and massive economic inequalities burden the population.
Nonetheless, the Cuban government is taking near unprecedented actions to legitimize itself; in the spirit of Christmas they have released 2900 prisoners on Christmas Eve.
The Cuban government’s motivations for this greatest of gifts is tainted. The released seem to be marginal political prisoners whose initial arrests are unjustified. Important prisoners have not been released. American Alan Gross, serving 15 years for subversive CIA-backed activities, has remain imprisoned alongside critical political prisoners. Cuba still expects to be congratulated for its humanitarianism.
It is like when my sister stole all the Christmas cookies; she expected to be congratulated upon returning the platter, despite every tasty gingerbread man missing at least one limb.
I speculate that Cuba is changing, for the better. Rather than maintaining the fantasy that Cuba is a socialist paradise its new leader, President Raul Castro, is moving to better Cuba pragmatically. Freeing these prisoners, whom never should have been behind bars in the first place, is one definite step towards legitimizing Cuba in the eyes of the international community.
Being legitimate is important; both Israel and Palestine are effectively countries, but Israel is de jure while Palestine is not. That is why Israel is a partner in international trade, operates in global alliances, and has a high standard of living while Palestine is not even on the map.
Already key political figures, such as Pope Benedict XVI, are acknowledging the increasing credibility of Cuba, with publicized visits.
It will take time, however I believe Cuba is now in the opening stages of positive trajectory that ends with it being an integrated member of the international community. There is corroborative evidence the country is changing for the better. Earlier this month the national banks launched a micro loan program to give every citizen financing to better his home and investments. There is even an emerging middle class.
It will take hard work and many years, but change is coming. The Christmas Spirit, inspiring both peace on earth and goodwill to all men, is one key ingredient to ending hardship in Cuba. Maybe Castro will give even better gifts next Christmas, or at least steal fewer cookies.