- "In Cuba, there will not be political reform," says a top Cuban official
- Pope Benedict said Friday that Cuba's political system "no longer responds to reality"
- Cuba's foreign minister responded, saying his country respects all opinions
- Speculation abounds over whether the pope will meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez
A top Cuban official told reporters in Havana on Tuesday that his country's political system is "sustainable" and that it will not change.
"In Cuba, there will not be political reform," said Marino Murillo, vice president of the island's council of ministers.
Those comments appeared a more forceful response to remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his flight last week from Rome to Mexico when he told reporters that he believed Cuba's Marxist political system "no longer responds to reality."
"With this visit, a way of cooperation and dialogue has been inaugurated, a long road that requires patience but that leads forward," the pope said, according to the Vatican.
"It is evident today that Marxist ideology as it had been conceived no longer responds to reality," Benedict continued. "New models must be found, though with patience."
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez responded to those comments when they were made on Friday, saying his country respects all opinions.
Arriving on the island's southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba on Monday, Benedict, 84, said he carries "in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be."
The pontiff then traveled to the city's Basilica del Cobre on Tuesday, flying on to Havana's International airport, where he was greeted by a large welcoming committee that included Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega and other clergy.
Speculation has swirled over whether the pope will meet with Cuba's former president, Fidel Castro, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who flew into Cuba over the weekend for radiation treatment.