Tonight is Christmas eve and the last night of Hanukkah. Exactly one week ago, preceded by 18 months of secret talks hosted by Canada and the Vatican, the White House announced full diplomatic relations with Cuba would begin within months. At the heart of the agreement was the release of Alan Gross, a
humanitarian worker subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, arrested by the Cuban government for improving establishing internet access (and smuggling cell phones) for a small community of Jewish Cubans.
“The breakthrough in relations between the United States and Cuba, announced last week, was in large measure orchestrated by the holy see’s diplomatic service, and the Vatican was not shy about taking some credit for this,” said the Erasmus blog.
Not to play off the word “orchestrated” but this photo was taken in Cuba in March 2012 during Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s second trip to Latin America. He deserves some credit for this, too. The pontiff discussed the failing health of Alan Gross during meetings with President Raúl Castro exactly two years before Pope Francis discussed the failing health of Alan Gross during meetings with President Barack Obama.
If we do the math, the secret talks began six months after Benedict first met with Castro. Pope Francis didn’t become pope until March 2013. So who in the Cuban government was the Vatican diplomatic service already talking to in September 2012? And what did Canada know and when did they know it?
Merry Christmas Mystery.
NOTE: Post updated Dec. 28
“Obama and Castro — who spoke by phone Tuesday, the first such exchange between leaders of the two countries since the 1959 Cuban Revolution — thanked Pope Francis and the Vatican, which they said were instrumental in promoting their dialogue, and the government of Canada, where secret talks that began in June 2013 were held,” said the Chicago Tribune on Dec. 17.
We know that secrets talks began before June 2013. Here is The New York Times (AP) Dec. 18 link establishing Pope Benedict’s initial connection with Castro during the March 2012 trip.
“Travelling with Pope Benedict on that trip was Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the No. 2 official in the secretariat of state and former Vatican ambassador to Cuba, who is believed to have had a prominent role in the final resolution of the initiative”.
And Happy New Year!