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Raul Castro Avoids the Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz

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    Raul Castro Avoids the Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz / Yoani Sanchez Translating Cuba, Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez People visiting Havana for the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2012
      Raul Castro Avoids the Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz / Yoani Sanchez
      Translating Cuba, Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

      People visiting Havana for the first time agree on the similarities of
      this city with Cadiz. The cultural similarities and certain visual
      resemblances tie the Cuban capital to its Andalusian first cousin. The
      presence of the sea, some of the architectural style, and the open
      behavior of its people, complete the embrace.

      But not even this closeness has moved Raul Castro to participate in the
      XXII Ibero-American summit that began November 16 in this Spanish town.
      The Cuban leader preferred to send his Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez.

      Raul Castro travels little and when he does he prefers politically
      like-minded countries. Venezuela, Russia, China and Vietnam are among
      his few destinations since he assumed the office of the presidency in
      February 2008. His absence in Cadiz was expected, as he has never gone
      to any Ibero-American summits in other countries. Perhaps he prefers to
      avoid possible critiques of the state of Human Rights on the Island.

      But the General is just one among many absent from this meeting. His
      counterpart Hugo Chavez also will not attend, nor will the Argentine
      president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has offered the excuse of
      health problems. The recent earthquake in Guatemala has prevented the
      trip of Otto Perez-Molina, while the Paraguayan Federico Franco has
      excluded himself given his strained relations with his Latin American
      neighbors. So many empty chairs has robbed some of the luster from an
      event that for several years now has captured less and less interest in
      the region.

      The main theme of this Ibero-American Summit deals with the world
      economic situation and ways to cope. Cuba has not escaped the red ink. A
      year is ending in which Raul Castro’s reforms have failed to boost the
      productivity of the country as was hoped. Not even the relaxations in
      the rules governing self-employment have resulted in an improvement over
      Cubans’ deteriorating standard of living.

      To top it off, hurricane Sandy damaged more than 137,000 homes — wholly
      or partially — in the east of the Island. Thousands of homeless and a
      delicate epidemiological situation, complete the picture.

      Nor has foreign investment taken off on the island, although the large
      number of guests at the last International Fair of Havana (FIHAV) might
      make one think otherwise. The international crisis and businesses’ lack
      of confidence in the Cuban “opening,” are among the reasons for the
      slowness with which that sector is moving. Everywhere we look we see the
      country’s urgent need for fresh, new and convertible capital.

      The Carromero Case

      Beyond Raul Castro’s absence at the Cadiz Summit, the most conspicuous
      issue that touches the Cuban side seems to be that of the Spaniard Angel
      Carromero. Detained in Cuba since July 22, this young leader of the
      Popular Party’s New Generations, was driving the car that killed regime
      opponents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero. A court has convicted
      Carromero of “involuntary manslaughter,” though Payá’s family is still
      demanding an independent investigation.

      The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, José Manuel
      García-Margallo, said on Friday that Havana will consider a “formal
      request” from Madrid asking for the return of Angel Carromero. “The
      Government has put forward a formal request. The Cuban government has
      promised that it will consider it,” Garcia Margallo said in an interview
      with Cadena Ser, in response to a question about whether he had
      discussed the issue with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who
      arrived in Cadiz on Thursday.

      And Human Rights?

      Last week the Cuban opposition experienced days of vertigo from an
      escalation of arrests. On Wednesday, November 7, the independent
      attorney Yaremis Flores, 29, was arrested outside her home in Havana.
      Dozens of opponents gathered peacefully outside several police stations
      to demand her release.

      State Security responded with a heavy hand, leading more than thirty of
      these dissidents to the dungeons. Among them were several former
      prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 and the European Parliament’s
      Sakharov Prize winner, journalist Guillermo Fariñas.

      Antonio Rodiles, who at age 40 is the director of a political-cultural
      project called Estado de SATS (State of SATS), remains behind bars.

      And all this happened a few days after the foreign ministers of the
      European Union (EU) in Brussels discussed the possibility of promoting a
      new relationship with Cuba.

      Relations between the EU and the government of Havana are currently
      limited by the so-called Common Position, adopted by the EU in 1996 at
      the initiative of the Spanish government of José María Aznar. The
      Common Position conditions any progress in relations on improvements in
      the situation of human rights on the Island.

      With respect to this, García-Margallo said that “necessary and
      sufficient conditions” do not exist to modify the Europe’s Common
      Position with regards to the largest of the Antilles, however he allowed
      as how, within this Common Position, “there is room for a flexible
      interpretation” that allows “reaching an agreement of cooperation with

      17 November 2012

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