Thursday, December 16, 2010

Confidential 2005 memo: Cuba adviser saw Felipe Perez Roque as "best hope"

According to this 2005 U.S. embassy cable, Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development, "believes the EU must bolster Cuban FM Felipe Perez Roque as the best hope for improved EU-Cuba relations."
Michel said his Cuba adviser, who is not identified in the cable:
repeated often that Perez Roque was the only Cuban official Michel met with whom it was possible to have a give-and-take discussion. Perez Roque appeared to be looking ahead to a post-Castro era, and thinking pragmatically about how to pursue Cuba's present and future interests.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BRUSSELS1530 2005-04-18 13:01 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Brussels

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRUSSELS 001530

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2015
TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR EAID CU EUN USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: CUBA: EU COMMISSIONER MICHEL BOLSTERS CUBAN FONMIN

REF: A. A) BRUSSELS 1389
¶B. B) BRUSSELS 1217
¶C. C) STATE 50857

Classified By: USEU POLOFF TOOD HUIZINGA, FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: According to his adviser on Cuba, European
Commissioner for Development Louis Michel believes the EU
must bolster Cuban FM Felipe Perez Roque as the best hope for
improved EU-Cuba relations. During his March 24-27 visit to
the island (REFS B-C), Michel offered Perez Roque better
relations with the EU, apparently implying that the EU wished
to offset the U.S. embargo. Michel reportedly was struck by
the "frozen" world-view of the other Cuban officials he met,
including Castro, who appeared to believe Cuba's
relationships with Venezuela and China rendered closer
relations with the EU unnecessary. Michel's analysis of
EU-Cuba relations seems unaffected by his meetings with the
opposition. He believes the U.S. embargo soured the
Communist experiment on the island, and that "constructive
engagement" with Cuba is the EU's only alternative. His view
has the upper hand in the EU, but continued Cuban
intransigence could result in pressure to toughen EU policy
by the time of the EU's June/July Cuba policy review. END
SUMMARY.

----------------------
A CONFIDENTIAL READOUT
----------------------

¶2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX (STRICTLY PROTECT), who covers
Cuba in the cabinet of European Commissioner for Development
Louis Michel, called Poloff on April 14 for a "confidential"
readout of Michel's March 24-27 visit to Cuba. XXXXXXXXXXXX
accompanied Michel to the island and attended all of his
meetings except the encounter with Castro. During his trip
Michel met with Perez Roque, Vice President of the Council of
State Carlos Lage, National Assembly President Ricardo
Alarcon, Minister of Foreign Investment and Economic
Cooperation Marta Lomas and, for three hours, with Fidel
Castro. In addition, Michel met Cardinal Jaime Ortega and
Cuban opposition figures Oswaldo Paya, Marta Beatriz Roque,
Vladimiro Roca and the Women in White, a group of wives and
family members of imprisoned dissidents. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he
had offered the readout to assure Poloff that Michel fully
shared the objective of democratic transition in Cuba and had
reasons for his differences with the U.S. on tactics.

---------------------------
PEREZ ROQUE: THE GREAT HOPE
---------------------------

¶3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX repeated often that Perez Roque was the only
Cuban official Michel met with whom it was possible to have a
give-and-take discussion. Perez Roque appeared to be looking
ahead to a post-Castro era, and thinking pragmatically about
how to pursue Cuba's present and future interests. In this
context, he listened with interest to Michel's suggestion
that Cuba join the Cotonou Agreement and thereby establish a
comprehensive basis for closer political, trade and
development-assistance relations with the EU. (NOTE: The
Cotonou Agreement is the framework for
development-assistance, trade and political relations between
the EU and the 79 members of the African, Caribbean and
Pacific Group of States. In exchange for a more favorable
trade and aid relationship, Cotonou would commit Cuba to a
regular political and human rights dialogue with the EU. END
NOTE.) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Michel told Perez Roque that
a Cotonou-based relationship with the EU could act as a
counterbalance to Cuba's isolation from the U.S. He further
suggested that, under Cotonou, the EU might be able to help
the Cubans in sending medical doctors to countries in the
region, as they are doing in Venezuela.

------------------------------
PEREZ ROQUE NONCOMMITTAL TO EU
------------------------------

¶4. (C) Perez Roque's response to the Cotonou offer was
noncommittal. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Cuban FM's negotiating
style could be described as "I'll tell you the time if you
give me your watch." In that spirit, Perez Roque repeatedly
told Michel the prerequisite for closer EU-Cuba ties was the
EU's dropping support for the U.S. CHR resolution on Cuba.
Denying that Michel had ever advocated dropping support,
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Michel's response was always that (1)
Cuba must release its imprisoned dissidents; and (2) since
the CHR resolution was purely procedural, the EU could not
fail to support it. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel raised the
possibility of Cuba's inviting UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Louise Arbour or her Cuba Representative Christine
Chanet to visit the island, in order to signal Cuba's desire
to work with the international community. According to
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Perez Roque said he would consider the idea but
never followed up.

-----------------------------------------
MICHEL'S EFFUSIVENESS WAS FOR PEREZ ROQUE
-----------------------------------------

¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX said Michel was quite aware that trying to
buttress Perez Roque was a risk. No one could be sure
whether he was acting in good faith in his contacts with the
EU, or simply "the smartest" member of a completely
intransigent regime. Nonetheless, Michel felt that Perez
Roque represented the EU's only hope of influencing Cuba
toward reform and respect for human rights. XXXXXXXXXXX said
Michel's effusive public optimism about EU-Cuba relations
after the visit was meant to bolster Perez Roque. In
reality, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, Michel came away sobered and
distressed. Perez Roque would have to come through soon,
said XXXXXXXXXXXX, by freeing more dissidents or allowing the UN
human rights visit, or Michel and the Spaniards would no
longer be able to advocate full constructive engagement.
When pressed on whether "soon" meant before the upcoming
June/July review of EU Cuba policy, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, "we'll
probably have to give him more time than that."

----------------------------------
MICHEL: CASTRO, OTHERS, DELUSIONAL
----------------------------------

¶6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was at pains to contrast Perez Roque with
the other Cuban officials they had met. XXXXXXXXXXXX said
Michel was struck by how "frozen" and delusional Cuban
officials' view of the world was. The meeting with Vice
President of the Council of State Carlos Lage was emblematic
of this, said XXXXXXXXXXXX. Lage seemed truly to believe that
all was well on the island, that time was on Cuba's side
regarding the U.S. embargo, that the Cuban peso revaluation
would make the economy strong and, above all, that Cuba's
growing relations with Venezuela and China rendered closer
relations with the EU unnecessary. Although XXXXXXXXXXXX did
not attend the meeting with Castro, Michel told him the
three-hour encounter started with an almost surreal tour
through a room Castro had showcasing Chinese products as if
it were a museum exhibition. Castro, too, seemed fixated on
Venezuela and China. Although the Alarcon meeting was less
substantive, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Alarcon expressed views
similar to Lage. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Minister of Foreign
Investment and Economic Cooperation Marta Lomas was the most
wooden of all, sticking so close to her talking points that
no exchange was possible.

-------------------------------------
MICHEL: EMBARGO FEEDS CUBAN DELUSIONS
-------------------------------------

¶7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed that a central element of the
official Cubans' world-view was the U.S. embargo. The Cuban
David had weathered the American Goliath's embargo for forty
years, proving the regime's strength and lending it moral
legitimacy. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel felt vindicated in his
opposition to the embargo, since he had now witnessed the
role it played in Cuban officials' delusions. XXXXXXXXXXXX
added that Michel believed that Communism might have turned
out well for Cuba if the embargo had not helped push the
regime down the hard-line path. This was yet another reason,
XXXXXXXXXXXX said, to choose a Cuba policy of engagement rather
than isolation.

-------------------------------------------
OPPOSITION: LITTLE EFFECT ON MICHEL'S VIEWS
-------------------------------------------

¶8. (C) Michel's analysis of EU-Cuba relations seems
unaffected by his meetings with the opposition and the
Church. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel had three separate meetings
with dissidents, one with Oswaldo Paya, another with Marta
Beatriz Roque and Vladimiro Roca, and a third with the Women
in White. XXXXXXXXXXXX said little of note was discussed during
the Paya meeting, and that Roca was the only opposition
figure who completely opposed the lifting of the EU measures.
Beatriz Roque, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, opposed it as well, but was
willing to wait and see what the upshot would be. The Women
in White made a deep impression on Michel, according to
XXXXXXXXXXXX, with their personal stories. However, they did
not discuss policy. XXXXXXXXXXXX had little of substance to say
about Michel's meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

---------------------------------------
MICHEL GOING TO MAT FOR FULL ENGAGEMENT
---------------------------------------

¶9. (C) COMMENT: Michel apparently will stop supporting full
constructive engagement with Cuba only if Cuban intransigence
-- and pressure from within the EU -- makes his position
politically untenable. He is also willing to sell the EU
approach to the Cubans as a counterweight to the U.S.
embargo. Our sense is that this attitude, buttressed by
Spanish support, is still carrying the day in the EU. (NOTE:
On April 15, Perez Roque called EU support for the CHR
resolution on Cuba "pathetic;" a Commission spokeswoman's
response was to say that the EU supported the resolution
because it did not condemn the Cuban authorities. END NOTE.)
As the June/July review of EU Cuba policy approaches, the
commitment of anti-Castro member states such as the Czech
Republic and Poland, and, in Brussels, of the center-right
activists in the European Parliament (REF A) will be key. If
the Castro regime remains as uncompromising as it has been in
its reaction to the CHR resolution, they might have a window
of opportunity to modify the current policy of full
engagement. END COMMENT.

SCHNABEL

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