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IMPORTANT: Pérez Roque: 'A new page' opens in Havana-Mad rid relations

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  • Walter Lippmann
    PROGRESO WEEKLY May 17, 2007 http://www.progresoweekly.com/index.php?progreso=Perez_Roque&otherweek= Pérez Roque: ‘A new page’ opens in Havana-Madrid
    Message 1 of 1 , May 18 3:16 PM
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      PROGRESO WEEKLY
      May 17, 2007
      http://www.progresoweekly.com/index.php?progreso=Perez_Roque&otherweek=

      Pérez Roque: ‘A new page’ opens in Havana-Madrid relations

      The following interview with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez
      Roque was published on May 15 by the Spanish daily El Mundo, under
      the headline “Pérez Roque: Zapatero has distanced himself from
      Aznar's hypocritical attitude toward Cuba.” The interviewer was
      Mercedes Ibaibarriaga; the translation is by Progreso Weekly.

      QUESTION: How do you describe the visit of Spanish [Foreign] Minister
      Miguel Angel Moratinos to Cuba?

      ANSWER: It was successful and positive. We talked in order to promote
      economic cooperation and the interests of Spanish and Cuban
      entrepreneurs. We talked about strengthening the political exchange
      between the Foreign Relations ministries. A new page has opened in
      the history of [Spanish-Cuban] relations.

      Q.: But that page does not have any dialogue about political
      prisoners.

      A.: There is no topic that we shall refuse to discuss, provided there
      is respect for the sovereign equality of the states. We do not feel
      like a defendant who accounts for himself before a tribunal, and we
      also have an opinion to give about the reality in Europe. We want to
      move ahead with an exchange, not with a punitive or penalizing focus.
      The dialogue includes a segment about human rights and begins in Cuba
      in June. It is a test of trust.

      Q.: So, will there be a dialogue about political prisoners?

      A.: I deny that Cuba holds political prisoners, in the sense that
      they're imprisoned for their ideas, for thinking the opposite. What
      we have in Cuba are mercenaries, persons who receive money from the
      government of the United States to facilitate the blockade, even
      against Spanish enterprises.

      They are informers for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. They
      send reports to the radio stations that broadcast propaganda to Cuba.
      I am not making this up; this is information from the U.S. Congress
      Accounting Office, which audits the money the government allots, for
      example, to democracy in Cuba.

      In any country, whoever allies himself to a foreign government to
      subvert the constitutional regime commits a crime. There are also
      people who were imprisoned for delinquency, for placing bombs in
      hotels or participating in sabotage plots. Having said this, the
      issue [of prisoners] is not the agenda for discussion. For Cuba, it
      is not the heart of the dialogue, but we'll talk about any topic.

      Q.: And what is the center of interest for Cuba?

      A.: The need for the European Union to base its policy toward Cuba on
      the interests of Europe. That implies that the E.U. should withdraw
      from the so-called "common stance" and abandon the so-called
      "sanctions" against Cuba, contained in a document that [former
      Spanish Prime Minister José María] Aznar negotiated with the Bush
      government. On this, Cuba agrees to cooperate, provided there is
      respect for its sovereignty and a recognition that [Cuba] is a
      country that has been hounded by the United States for five decades
      and has the right to defend itself.

      Q.: Is Spain the chess piece that will break the European common
      stance?

      A.: Spain is a very important country in the European Union and plays
      an essential role in [the Union's] policy toward Cuba. By imposing
      U.S. interests on the European Union, Aznar tied his own hands, lost
      his interlocution with Cuba and took [Spanish-Cuban] relations to the
      edge of rupture. But the current government has rescued them.

      Today, Spain is a privileged interlocutor for Cuba, and that permits
      it to play an important role in the European Union. Europe needs a
      policy that abandons hypocrisy toward Cuba and recognizes [Cuba] as a
      serious interlocutor.

      [Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero is taking steps in this
      direction. We look upon Zapatero with respect, because he has
      distanced himself from Aznar's hypocritical attitude toward Cuba. We
      have different points of view, but we discuss them with respect.
      What's new is that Zapatero approaches Cuba from the point of view of
      dialogue and the interests of Spain. This is legitimate, and has
      boosted his moral authority.

      When we sat down with the PP [Popular Party], it was like sitting
      down with the representatives of the U.S. government. Zapatero does
      not take an imitative position, like a stablehand of U.S. policy, and
      that's why we agreed to meet -- something we would never have done
      with a PP government.

      Because Aznar, while he tore his garments saying that he was
      concerned about the situation of human rights in Cuba, was Bush's
      accomplice when it came to torturing prisoners in the Guantanamo
      Base. The Spanish government that claimed it worked for democracy in
      Cuba became an accomplice in the Azores for the [United States’]
      illegal aggression against Iraq.

      Q.: In a post-Fidel Cuba, will the army be the bastion?

      A.: No. The bastion and the protagonists have always been the people.
      The revolution is kept alive by the people's unity and support. In
      reality, the army is the people in uniform. Not only the regular
      troops but also the millions of people trained -- by a voluntary
      decision to receive military instruction -- to defend our motherland.

      Q.: Is there any concern in the army over the attempted escape of two
      reservists?

      A.: Not the slightest disquiet. Rather, there is great serenity,
      firmness, cohesion and a great combative willingness. Operation
      Caguairán, which began when Fidel fell ill, increased the number of
      women and men that were mobilized and trained, as a defensive
      precaution.

      The case of those recruits is an isolated case, but it does reveal
      the effect of the stimulus given by the United States to illegal
      immigration. It gives immediate residence to any Cuban who arrives
      illegally, but it mistreats Mexicans, repatriates them or murders
      them on the border.

      Q.: Would the [Castro] regime have survived without the help of Hugo
      Chávez's Venezuela?

      A.: Yes. The revolution survived by itself from 1990 (when the Soviet
      Union disintegrated with the fall of the Berlin Wall) to 2000. The
      first Cuba-Venezuela accord was signed in 2000, after a decade of
      resistance.

      But the accords with Chávez have helped Cuba. We were guaranteed a
      stable supply of energy, with financial terms of up to 25 percent on
      oil invoices and credit payable long-term and at a low rate of
      interest. That cooperation allows us to confront the blockade and the
      international situation with greater fortitude.

      Cuba has sent to Venezuela 30,000 health-care workers and doctors
      that provide service free of charge; also teachers to eradicate
      illiteracy. We are bound to Chávez by a very close alliance, based on
      common values, very close objectives and similar visions regarding
      foreign policy. But the relationship is not based on quotas of
      influence or Chávez's attitude of power. He respects us, and vice
      versa.

      Q.: How do you interpret the decision of a U.S. tribunal in Miami
      [sic] to release terrorist Luis Posada Carriles? (*)

      A.: We condemn that ruling and accuse the government of the United
      States of that infamy. Posada Carriles is free because the White
      House fears the revelations that he might make about the years when
      he worked for the CIA.

      They trained him, and during the most intense period of his terrorist
      career -- the years 1976 and 1977, when bombs exploded in Cuban
      embassies and trade offices, when they blew up a Cuban plane over
      Barbados -- he was a principal agent in the terrorism that the CIA,
      then directed by Bush Sr., orchestrated against Cuba.

      Therefore, George Bush Jr. fears that Posada Carriles will reveal
      what he knows and has outlined a plan to not brand him as a
      terrorist, despite the great amount of evidence. He should extradite
      him to Venezuela, as that country requested, because [Posada] is a
      fugitive of Venezuelan justice. Or else, he could try him in the
      United States.

      Cuba and Venezuela have turned to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of
      the United Nations Security Council, and we shall raise our
      denunciation in all possible forums.

      (*) Editor's Note: Posada Carriles was released by a federal judge in
      El Paso, Texas.
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