During his recent visit, the pope expressed his hope that the United States lifts trade sanctions against the island country as soon as possible. He surprised people, however when he did not raise the case in his speech to the US Congress.
Last Tuesday, the Argentine-born religious leader said to reporters on the papal plane flying from Cuba to North America that, “The problem of the blockade is part of the negotiation. Both leaders have talked about this. It is a public matter which is on track to good relations.”
In this regard, he expressed hope that Washington and Havana soon reach a “true” agreement that benefits both parties.
What is curious is that the Pope’s statements took place on the same day that a US State Department official on condition of anonymity made several interesting comments about US and Cuban affairs . “The US government actually wants there to be in agreement as soon as possible, so that US airlines make regular flights to Cuba,” he said, “The two countries plan to discuss a possible code sharing agreement between airlines shortly.”
In this sense, the official detailed that representatives will continue to discuss their bilateral future in Havana next week, principally to normalize these airline services.
The Pope, who inaugurated his four-day pastoral visit to Cuba last Saturday, has just left Philadelphia as part of his tour of North America.
US and Cuban presidents, Barack Obama and Raul Castro, respectively, announced last July 1 the formal restoration of diplomatic relations and the reopening of their embassies after 54 years. The announcement caused much satisfaction across the international community, including positive reactions from Pope Francis.
Since the start of the bilateral agreement, Cuba has demanded that the US blockade of the island should be rescinded, and questions why such sanctions still remain intact.
On Friday, the US Government reported that it is drafting a series of new regulations to remove many restrictions on US companies and enable them to open offices in Havana for the first time in over half a century.