Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cable describes commerce secretary's encounter with Cuban youth

This January 2008 cable discusses a video conference between then-Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Cuban youth.
The topic was not commerce, but rather freedom, democracy and the future of Cuba.
Gutierrez was born in Havana and is the son of a pineapple plantation owner, his Wikipedia entry says.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08HAVANA66 2008-01-18 16:04 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana

VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0066/01 0181613
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY AD4E5483 MSI9413-695)
O 181613Z JAN 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2740
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS IMMEDIATE
RUCOGCA/NAVSTA GUANTANAMO BAY CU IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000066

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY SECSTATE DELETED AS INFO ADDEE

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA; NSC FOR DAN FISK

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
TAGS: CU PGOV PHUM PINR PREL
SUBJECT: COMSEC DISCUSSES FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY WITH CUBAN
YOUTH

Classified By: COM: Michael E. Parmly: For reasons 1.4 b/d

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On 14 January Commerce Secretary
Gutierrez spoke by video conference with 10 representatives
of Cuban youth organizations. The participants discussed
their desires for democracy and freedom. They also spoke
about the prospects of achieving a democratic transition in
Cuba and the image of the United States. Four current
university students who were expected to participate in the
conference never appeared at the US Interest Section in
Havana for reasons that are yet to be discovered. One of the
participants stated that after the event State Security
officials questioned him about his participation in the
conference. End Summary.

¶2. (C) SECCOM Gutierrez engaged in a dialogue with
XXXXXXXXXXXX Four university students, whose
participation was coordinated by Raul Capote Hernandez,
never appeared. USINT is still trying to discover the reason
why they did not show up.

¶3. (C) The participants spoke of their desire for freedom
and democracy as well as the Cuban people's wish for
improvements in their standard of living. XXXXXXXXXXXX
described the farcical atmosphere of a meeting in his neighbourhood
where government officials in the runup to the elections scheduled
for January 20 instructed people that they could mark up the
ballot in any way they choose and it would be counted unless
they wrote something like "Down with Fidel" on it. The
participants would like to have real options in a range of
things from the candidates in elections to the food they can
purchase.

¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX ,however, made it clear that
dissidents can't speak for the entire Cuban people. In a
subsequent discussion with POL officer, she elaborated that
it would be a mistake to underestimate the effectiveness of
GOC propaganda and the support the government has especially
in poor communities and with some groups of University
students. During the conference, XXXXXXXXXXXX
described how it is clear that senior state security
officials are well aware of how they are manipulating
information, but many of the young security agents actually
believe that dissidents are potential terrorists. XXXXXXXXXXXX
told POL officer that many people, especially outside Havana,
are convinced that dissidents are being paid to plot terrorist
acts and sabotage. Rodriguez del Toro, Sanchez and Juan
Carlos Hernandez are from Santiago de Cuba. They were all
involved in a widely publicized incident in December 2007
where police beat protesters on the grounds of a church in
Santiago.

¶5. (C) In the conference, XXXXXXXXXXXX responded to
questions about the attitude of the Cuban people toward the
United States. She stated that years ago people tended to
view both the government and the people of the United States
as hostile towards Cuba. However, she now feels that even
those who are suspicious of the Bush Administration, tend to
have much more positive feelings toward the American people.
She credits this to increased contact with actual Americans.
Some participants mentioned the confusion over the role of
the Committee for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC). They
alluded to the GOC's propaganda campaign and a notorious
billboard that reads "Plan Bush: No More Morning Kiss" with a
drawing of a mother not allowed to kiss her children as they
head off for school. XXXXXXXXXXXX reiterated to Pol
officer that even if GOC propaganda seems preposterous, it is
effective with large segments of the population which have
with little access to alternative information.

¶6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also stated that often university
students are afraid to speak to them although there is
widespread support for the petition drive organized by
E

XXXXXXXXXXXX Frontiers to demand the opening of
private universities. She said that now almost all of the
organization's contact with university students is through
third parties. She spoke of how after widespread protests in
September, university students in Santiago de Cuba felt
emboldened because they achieved some improvements in their
living conditions. However, protest activity has died down
because students are afraid of expulsion. She indicated that
there is still widespread discontent on campus on account of
the dilapidated dormitories, the poor food, and the presence
of many unqualified professors. A particular sore spot is
the considerably better food and lodging provided to the
foreign students. She said that Cuban students are not even
allowed to visit the dormitories of foreign students.
XXXXXXXXXXXX often points out that the regime is well
aware that all of the significant revolutions in Cuban
history started with student movements and that the GOC
keeps a close watch on what happens in the universities.

¶6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that on 15 January two
plainclothes agents from state security came to his Havana
home and said that they knew he had participated in a video
conference with SECCOM and wanted the names of the
other participants. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that he was
told to appear in court on 21 January but will not do so unless
he receives an official written citation. All of the other
participants state that after the video conference they have not
been contacted to the police or GOC officials. Rodriguez del
Toro said that she expects that all the members of her group
will be detained as soon as they arrive back in Santiago.

PARMLY

No comments: