HAVANA (CWN) - US television networks looking to cover Pope John Paul's historic visit to Cuba this month said this week they are facing obstacles from both Cuba's Communist government and US regulations designed to economically isolate the island-nation.

      The American networks have all said that the Cuban government is asking for exorbitant rates for technical services and other accommodation, including re-broadcast of Cuban TV pictures of papal Masses. One source said Cuba is asking for as much as $100,000 per network to use the footage, much higher than rates for similar public events such as political conventions. The networks also complained that since Cuba doesn't have the advanced technical capabilities they need they have been forced to bring in equipment such as satellite trucks and to install phone lines.

      The broadcasters also face limits imposed by the US on the amounts companies are allowed to spend in Cuba. The networks have asked the US to waive a limit of $100 per day per employee for living expenses. The provision of the Helms-Burton law is unreasonable, they said, because rates for hotel rooms has jumped from $70 to nearly $200 per night during the Holy Father's visit from January 21-25.

      Meanwhile, Cubans continued their spiritual preparations for the visit with a New Years Day Mass celebrated in Havana's cathedral by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana. Cardinal Keeler is making a brief visit to the country to bring medical supplies from Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services.

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January 5, 1998 volume 9, no. 3          DAILY CATHOLIC