From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Pope Rounds out Tour of Mexico and Cuba
Benedict XVI arrived in Mexico on Friday, where he spent three days before leaving for Cuba on Tuesday. He will return to Rome tomorrow. Beyond entertaining Mexicans by donning a sombrero, the pope decried the drug violence affecting the country and asked for Mexico to honor religious freedom. The papal visit comes at a time when the Mexican Catholic Church is increasingly politicized, and the role of the institution in public life has reached legislative debate, according to analysis from The Los Angeles Times. “[A]lthough the Catholic Church has almost always enjoyed a powerful position [in Mexico], it has taken on a particularly activist role in partisan politics during the last decade,” says the article.
The pope’s visit to Cuba has invited inevitable comparisons to Pope John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1998. In a post for ForeignPolicy.com's Argument blog, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez writes about the general lack of enthusiasm among Cubans. “At the end of the nineties, Karol Wojtyla inspired us to hope. But now, in 2012, national cynicism conspires against enthusiasm. We already know, for example, that the phrase, ‘Let Cuba open herself to the world and let the world open itself to Cuba,’ never became more than the beautiful intention of the Polish pope.”
Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis on concerns in Mexico and Cuba preceding the papal visit.
Looking at a Rapidly Changing Cuba
The Economist this week features a 10-page special report on Cuba, with the headline “Cuba hurtles towards capitalism.” Articles focus on the island’s economic reforms, the consequences of those reforms, and relations with the United States. “After 50 years in which it has been an exception, the island’s destiny increasingly resembles that of its region. It is high time that those on both sides of the Florida Strait recognize that,” says the publication.
North American Defense Heads Talk Transnational Security
Mexico’s Defense Secretary General Guillermo Galván and Secretary of the Navy Admiral Mariano Saynez Mendoza met with the Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Ottawa on March 27 for the first trilateral meeting of North American defense ministers. Participants focused on the threat posted by Mexican organized crime and agreed to boost intelligence and security cooperation. “Quite frankly, these cartels don't recognize borders, they don't recognize nationalities,” said McKay.