By Tim Padgett, WLRN [Radio – Miami/South Florida]
Can the Vatican free Alan Gross in Cuba? It helps first to consider how the Roman Catholic Church freed itself in Cuba.
Cuba has seen surprising turns in recent years. Fidel Castro handing the communist dictatorship to his younger brother Raúl. Raúl decreeing capitalist reforms to save the communist dictatorship.
But perhaps most unexpected has been the sudden rise of the Cuban church as the first and only alternative institution to the Cuban revolution. In fact, a half century after Fidel banished thousands of priests and nuns from the island, the rebounded Catholic Church is arguably the one non-communist entity in Cuba that Raúl trusts today.
The church brokered the release of more than 100 Cuban dissidents in 2011. The church is helping Raúl implement his economic changes – including, as odd as it sounds in Marxist Cuba, M.B.A. classes. “At this point,” says Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, “the Catholic Church has one of the strongest institutional bases in Cuba and has been very successful at talking directly to the Cuban government.”
All of which makes a move by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week seem smart. During a stop in Rome, Kerry announced he’s asked the Vatican to help negotiate the release of Gross, the 64-year-old State Department contractor who just finished four years of a 15-year prison term in Cuba for subversion.
Feature continues here: Alan Gross And The Vatican: Could The Keys Of St. Peter Unlock A Cuban Jail Cell?