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Cuba e-news #221 - Castro going to Mexico for Fox's party

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  • Gary Bacon
    As we all know, as rulers change, so do their country s relationships. A conservative takes office in Mexico, a liberal takes office in Canada, and no one has
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2000
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      As we all know, as rulers change, so do their country's relationships. A
      conservative takes office in Mexico, a liberal takes office in Canada, and
      no one has taken office in the US. For some perspective on the changing
      Cuba-Mexico relationship, read on. We'll have to wait and see what develops
      vis-a-vis the other two countries. -- Gary

      Castro going to Mexico for Fox's party
      By Isabel Garcia-Zarza

      HAVANA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Days after taking a jibe at Mexico underlining
      the tension in Cuba's ties with its erstwhile strongest ally in Latin
      America, President Fidel Castro is still set to attend President Vicente
      Fox's inauguration.

      Diplomatic sources said on Wednesday the 74-year-old veteran communist
      leader -- who launched the 1959 Cuban Revolution from Mexican soil -- would
      travel to Mexico City on Thursday for Fox's swearing-in ceremony the next

      In keeping with the veil of secrecy kept over Castro's movements for
      security reasons, however, Cuban officials have declined to confirm his
      attendance in Mexico.

      Castro made clear last weekend his disgust at outgoing Mexican President
      Ernesto Zedillo's government for seconding a motion at the recent
      Ibero-American Summit in Panama to condemn "terrorism" in Spain by Basque
      separatist group ETA.

      Havana was demanding a more general condemnation of "terrorism," including
      alleged U.S. aggression against Cuba.

      Charging that he was servile to Washington, Castro spoke in a speech of
      Zedillo as "the president of a different Mexico, governed today by the
      interests, principles and commitments imposed by the free trade accord with
      its northern neighbor."

      Mexico issued a cold diplomatic note, saying that "out of courtesy" and
      consideration for Castro's impending visit, it would abstain from reaction.

      Castro's deliberate use of the word "different" - in a written speech read
      to a massive rally -- was intended to draw a contrast with the "old" Mexico
      that was the only nation in the region not to cut ties with Havana after
      the revolution.


      But even before Cuba's spat at the Ibero-American summit -- where Havana
      also clashed with Spain and El Salvador, and was the only country not to
      sign the motion against ETA -- relations had been suffering.

      Mexico broke decades of unwritten protocol in 1999, when Foreign Minister
      Rosario Green met with local anti-Castro dissidents during an
      Ibero-American summit in Havana, and Zedillo made a pointed plea for
      pluralist democracy.

      Even before that, Castro had created a diplomatic furor when he lamented
      that Mexican children knew more about Walt Disney characters like Mickey
      Mouse than about their own national heroes.

      The handover from Zedillo to Fox will by no means, however, guarantee a
      return to past, smooth relations, analysts say. On the contrary, it was
      outgoing ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which had been
      traditionally sympathetic to Castro, whereas Fox's National Action Party
      (PAN) is an unknown quantity for Havana.

      After criticizing Cuba's rights record during his campaign, Fox has,
      however, tried to calm speculation his new government will pour more cold
      water on Mexico's ties with the island.

      Fox visited the Cuban Embassy for its national day on July 26, and Castro
      reciprocated by turning out for the inauguration of a statue in Havana to
      former Mexican leader Benito Juarez.

      Fox has called for an "intensification" of relations, but also -- and
      perhaps ominously for Castro -- has said "our grain of sand will be to work
      for the normalization of Cuba, that is to say, creating a democracy and
      passing to a market economy."
      16:20 11-29-00

      Fidel Castro Travels to Mexico
      The Associated Press
      Mon 27 Nov 2000

      HAVANA (AP) — Cuban President Fidel Castro travels to Mexico this week at a
      sensitive time in relations between the two countries, shortly after
      accusing Mexico of acting in U.S. interests and just before conservative
      President-elect Vicente Fox takes office.

      Both Castro and Fox have said they hope for a friendly relationship between
      their countries. But the future of those relations is moving into uncharted

      The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades
      and which historically was friendly to Cuba, relinquishes the presidency to
      the opposition with Fox's inauguration Friday.

      Fox brings with him as foreign secretary a former Marxist academic, Jorge
      Castaneda, who has irked Cuba with criticism of the island's human rights
      practices and an unsentimental biography of its revolutionary hero, Ernesto
      ``Che'' Guevara.

      Fox, a former rancher and Coca-Cola executive who was candidate of the
      decidedly pro-business, center-right National Action Party, has expressed
      hopes for a democratic transition in Cuba. But he has rejected the U.S.
      policy of trying to isolate the communist island.

      When Fox was governor of the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, he
      visited Cuba and praised the communist government's advances in health and
      other social services, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque noted. Fox
      met with Castro during that February 1999 visit.

      Early this month, Castro made a strong symbolic gesture of friendship to
      Mexico, with a surprise appearance at the unveiling of a new statue of
      Mexican hero Benito Juarez in Havana.

      But on Saturday, the Cuban president made a swipe at Mexico — along with
      Spain and El Salvador — for those countries' support of a motion on
      terrorism during a regional summit in Panama earlier this month.

      Mexico's Foreign Secretariat on Sunday said it would not officially respond
      to Castro's comments ``out of courtesy'' for his trip to Mexico.

      Cuba complained the motion did not mention terrorism aimed at the communist
      island. It condemned terrorism in general and acts by the Spanish
      separatist group ETA in particular.

      The motion was seconded by ``a different Mexico,'' Castro complained, a
      Mexico ``now ruled by the interests, the principles and the commitments
      imposed by the (North American) Free Trade Agreement.''

      For decades, Cuba counted Mexico among its closest friends — the only Latin
      American country that refused to break relations with the communist nation
      after the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power.

      Mexico, located just across the Gulf of Mexico, during those years remained
      one of Cuba's most important trading partners outside the Soviet bloc. It
      has been a leading critic of the U.S. trade embargo on the island.

      The countries' special relationship was based in large part on a shared
      history of often testy relations with their neighbor to the north, the
      United States.

      Thus, Mexican officials traditionally steered away from criticism of Cuba's
      political and economic systems, instead emphasizing a nation's right to
      choose its own destiny without influence from other countries — especially
      the United States.

      But that changed a year ago during the Ibero-American Summit of Latin
      leaders in Havana.

      President Ernesto Zedillo did what no Mexican leader had done before — made
      an implicit call for greater democracy in Cuba.

      ``There cannot be sovereign nations without free men and women,'' Zedillo
      told the summit, ``men and women who can fully exercise their essential
      freedoms: freedom to think and give opinions, freedom to act and
      participate, freedom to dissent, freedom to choose.''

      Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
      This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

      * ================= * ================= * ================= *
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      Gary Bacon
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