Dashed Hopes? Cuba Rejects Pope's Calls for Reform

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The Cuban government has made it clear there will be no political reforms after Pope Benedict XVI's call for change on the communist island.

The pope's trip to Cuba has already stirred controversy in the communist dictatorship.

During Monday night's mass, a man rushed toward an area reserved for foreign press, screaming, "Down with Communism! Down with the dictatorship!"

Security guards moved in and removed him. But the man was expressing what many in Cuba were hoping would be addressed by the pope, at a time when relations between the Church and the Castro regime seem stronger than ever.

"They say we have democracy, but it is a lie. People here are afraid of losing their jobs... to get imprisoned, get hurt," one Cuban woman.

Yet, so far the pope's public comments have been mild.

For instance, after arriving at one mass, he only said, "There are many issues in which we must and we can do more."

Later during mass in Santiago he said, "It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom, he almost seems to require it."

Benedict's themes were for more peace, forgiveness, and understanding in Cuba, but jailed dissidents were probably hoping for more.

Meanwhile, dissident groups are seeking an audience with the 84-year-old pontiff.

"We too have a right, at least for one minute, with his holiness," said Bertha Sola, founder of Ladies in White, a group made up of wives of political prisoners.

Cubans remember the boldness of Pope John Paul II. In 1998, the popular pope urged the former president to open Cuba to the world.

Fourteen years later with Fidel Castro's brother, Raul, in control, there was hope that Pope Benedict's visit would open the door to lasting change.

"Let's hope he brings us prosperity," one Cuban said. "That's what we hope for. And friendship not just with America, but the whole world."

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.