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Something Extra: Will This Pope Make A Difference In Cuba?

MIAMI (CBS4) - Hope for change is in the air again in Cuba.  But for more than five decades, hopes for freedom have been dashed.

When Pope John Paul the Second visited in 1998, I was there firsthand to feel that hope.

A year later, when the Baltimore Orioles played the Cuban national team, I was there as well, and personally witnessed repression.  Hope had again given way to despair.

Pope Benedict now visits Cuba at a time when opposition to the embargo is high, even among many Cuban Americans.

But despite its constant complaints about the embargo, the Cuban government seems not to care, continuing to brutally crack down on dissidents and violate human rights, with arrests reported even today, just as the pope was about to arrive.

Freedom of expression is squashed, and American reporters on the island to cover the pontiff tell of how many people are still afraid to talk to their cameras.  And there are fewer cameras than there should have been: only one of the seven Miami local TV stations is in Cuba... the government denied visas to the rest of us.

Cuba's closed communist society is a failed aberration, long ago left in the dustheap of history.

One can only hope this pope's visit will help inspire real change.  It would come five decades too late, but better late than never.

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