FROM Carlos Alzugaray
Will Pope Francis Be an Agent of Change? Yesterday, Pope Francis met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and former President Fidel. He said Mass in Havana's Revolution Square. He also delivered what's being called a "gentle" critique of Communist ideology and Cuba's suppression of dissenters. Later this week, he'll be in Washington, where some Catholic Republicans are already angry about his very un-gentle critique of free enterprise Capitalism. He'll address a joint meeting of Congress — and also visit with homeless people, laborers, immigrant children and prisoners. Cuba's Castro Brothers were educated and raised as Catholics, but their Communist revolution in 1959 made Cuba an atheist state. More recently, they have reached out to the Church, and Francis is the third Pope to visit the island since 1998.
Will American Tourists Spoil Cuba? Next week, the Presidents of the US and Cuba will meet for the first time since Fidel Castro's revolution of 1959. The US embargo is still on, but there's now an opening for American tourists who want to see Cuba before it becomes "Americanized." Historic buildings and old cars create nostalgia for life in the 50's — but when average wages are $20 a month they also illustrate poverty and decay. Is Havana a museum piece that's about to be "spoiled," or the capital of a desperate nation hungry for change?
Washington Opens Ties with Havana President Obama says isolation and punishment have not forced Communist Cuba to change, so he’s reversing 50 years of diplomatic policy. He said the US will end its isolation of Cuba and begin establishing normal relations by opening an embassy in Havana. Critics call normalizing relations an "undeserved bailout" of the Castro regime, based on the "illusion" that renewed ties will translate into political freedom. But supporters say it puts the onus on Cuba itself to further liberalize its economy, allow more dissenting voices and, ultimately, to establish democracy. Will it produce a historic transition or more of the same?
Mixed Messages from US diplomats on the new hard line on Syria Since President Trump's surprise retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has used the same airport to launch conventional attacks on his own people. It's not clear what the US, its allies — or Vladimir Putin's Russia -- plan to do now.
Nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula slowly coming to a head North Korea did not conduct a nuclear test this weekend, but it did show apparent progress in developing a missile that that could strike the United States. The Trump Administration says it has lost its "strategic patience." We hear what that might -- or might not -- mean for North Korea, China and the prospects for diplomacy.