Thursday, December 16, 2010

Low-key approach on Cuba brought U.S. closer to European Union

In this December 2009 cable, Spain's ambassador to Cuba, Manuel Cacho, said he noticed that the Obama administration was taking a less aggressive approach toward Cuba.
Cacho told U.S. Interests Section chief Jonathan Farrar that there is "opportunity for closer collaboration" with the European Union on Cuba.
Farrar, who wrote the cable, said it appears that Spain wants to speak for the European Union when it comes to EU positions on Cuba.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09HAVANA726 2009-12-05 16:04 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana

VZCZCXRO8657
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHUB #0726/01 3391615
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051615Z DEC 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4973
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0169
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 000726

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR DRL CNEWLING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/03/2019
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV CU
SUBJECT: SPAIN ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIALOGUE WITH CUBA

REF: A. HAVANA 683 ("SPAIN ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SIGNS OF
CHANGE")
¶B. MADRID 1146
¶C. MADRID 1157

HAVANA 00000726 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: Principal Office Jonathan Farrar for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) COM met December 2 with Spanish ambassador to Cuba
Manuel Cacho at the latter,s request to discuss Spain,s
plans vis--vis Cuba during Spain,s EU Presidency and the
upcoming meeting between the Secretary and Spanish FM
Moratinos. P/E Counselor separately met December 3 with his
Spanish counterpart. A preview of issues that Moratinos may
raise with the Secretary and other major points from both
meetings follow.

CONVERGING VIEWS, BUT NOT CONVERGENCE
-------------------------------------

¶2. (C) Ambassador Cacho stated that the USG and the
Government of Spain (GOS) used to differ on both strategy and
objectives for Cuba policy, with Spain seeking engagement and
gradual liberalization and the USG seeking confrontation and
regime change. COM noted that the United States is engaging
with the GOC in a low-key manner on issues where we believe
we can make progress, and continues to focus on improving
respect for human rights. He agreed that there is
opportunity for closer collaboration between the EU and
United States on Cuba such as the recent (successful)
approaches to the GOC to allow the travel to Spain of Elsa
Morejon, wife of prominent political prisoner Oscar Biscet.

CLOSELY WATCHING U.S. MOVES
---------------------------

¶3. (C) The Spanish Polcouns told his USINT counterpart that
Spain and all of the EU countries were closely watching U.S.
moves in Cuba, but dismissed that the EU would wait for
further developments in the U.S.-Cuba relationship. "We have
been traditionally ahead of you in engaging with Cuba," he
said, "we can't afford to fall behind." He dismissed reports
of new EU Foreign Minister Ashton's comments on the need to
wait for U.S.-Cuba developments as "rookie misstatements."

MINIMAL CHANGE WITHIN CUBA
--------------------------

¶4. (C) The ambassador and COM agreed that there so far has
been little political or economic reform within Cuba since
the passing of the GOC reins from Fidel to Raul Castro. GOC
exhortations to Cubans to work harder and more efficiently
reflect a military mindset but are insufficient to improve in
any meaningful way Cuba,s economy. Raul increasingly has
brought his people into high-level positions, which also has
increased the role and influence of the military. Ambassador
Cacho said the changes have made the GOC more centralized and
top-heavy, and that no outsiders have access to the small
circle at the top. In contrast to when Cacho arrived a year
ago, now even Cabinet ministers profess to him to have little
idea of future policy directions. No one has stepped into
the void left by the sacking of Carlos Lage. The Ambassador
sees Fidel,s influence lately to be on the rise, and even
speculated that Fidel might make an appearance at the
upcoming ALBA summit in Havana.

DO AWAY WITH THE EU COMMON POSITION
-----------------------------------

¶5. (C) Cacho said that Foreign Minister Moratinos likely will
raise with the Secretary Spain,s interest in doing away with
the Common Position. The GOS feels the Common Position has
failed to produce improvements in human rights in Cuba and
should be replaced by a negotiated agreement between the EU
and Cuba that would include human rights components. The
Spanish Polcouns further added that Spain and likeminded EU

HAVANA 00000726 002.2 OF 003

countries see the Common Position as an irritant to the GOC,
which impedes better EU-Cuba relations. Referring to the
GOC,s release and exile to Spain of four political prisoners
in 2007, and the release of one prisoner following
Moratinos, most recent visit to Cuba, Ambassador Cacho
asserted that the only human rights improvements in Cuba have
come through Spain,s own bilateral dialogue with Cuba. Even
those improvements were minimal, but the GOS feels the Common
Position has run its course.

¶6. (C) COM asked whether the GOS believes that the entry into
force of the Treaty of Lisbon means that unanimous consent is
no longer required to do away with the Common Position.
Ambassador Cacho said this remains unclear until the Council
of Europe meets next April. In the meantime, the GOS,s
position is that EU unity is more important than Cuba policy
and thus the GOS would move only if there were no objections
raised within the EU. Notwithstanding this, the Spanish are
sounding much more resolute in their aims than they did just
one months ago (Ref A).

CUBA WANTS A POLITICAL CHANNEL TO THE WHITE HOUSE
--------------------------------------------- ----

¶7. (C) The Spanish Ambassador said that Moratinos also is
likely to raise Cuba,s interest, as reportedly expressed to
him by Raul Castro, for a &political channel8 to the USG,
particularly to the White House. Only via such a &political
channel8 would the GOC be able to make major moves toward
meeting U.S. concerns (note: Cacho was not in the
Moratinos/Raul meeting). In response, COM ran through a list
of specific issues on which we have engaged the GOC and made
advances and of other areas, such as our offer to lift the
travel restrictions on our respective Interests Sections,
where we await concrete GOC action. The GOC should engage
seriously through the existing channels. The COM noted also
that the current domestic political situation in Cuba, as
described above, was not conducive to grand gestures by the
GOC. In a side note, Ambassador Cacho asked why the GOC had
not accepted our offer to lift travel restrictions, which he
felt would be to their advantage. Cuba,s territory was much
smaller, and the GOC would control access to GOC entities,
which encompass much of Cuba,s economy and societal
institutions. CUBINT,s potential access would be much
greater. COM said that was a question better posited to the
GOC; our offer remains on the table.

EU TROIKA AND CUBA: NOT AS BAD AS IT SEEMS
------------------------------------------

¶8. (C) Ambassador Cacho said the recent Troika meeting had
gone reasonably well considering the difficulty the GOC had
in engaging with the Swedish Presidency. COM noted the harsh
rhetoric directed toward the EU in the GOC statement issued
after the talks, and asked if that masked any progress on
human rights issues during the talks themselves. Cacho said
no, but that the GOS was hopeful of progress during its
Presidency. In the meantime, the EU internally was in
agreement that there was little to gain from responding
publicly to such diatribes.

CUBAN FIVE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
---------------------------

¶9. (C) Ambassador Cacho said he had been asked that morning
by the Damas en Blanco to demarche the GOC to ask that they
be allowed to visit their imprisoned relatives on Christmas
Day as a humanitarian gesture. He was prepared to do so but
was skeptical he would obtain a positive response. The
ambassador asked if Perez O,Conor and Salanueva, wives of
two of the Cuban Five, would receive visas to visit their
husbands. COM described the history of their ineligibilities
and the differences between the two cases. The ambassador
noted the GOC,s interest in swapping the Cuban FIVE for
political prisoners in Cuba. COM responded that the vast
majority of the Damas and their imprisoned relatives were
opposed to any such offer.

HAVANA 00000726 003.2 OF 003

DOWNWARD ECONOMIC SPIRAL
------------------------

¶10. (C) The ambassador said Cuban imports from Spain were
down 38% in August, similar to the decline from other trading
partners. Some Spanish exporters recently had been able to
access and transfer funds previously frozen in their Cuban
bank accounts but only if they agreed to invest some of these
proceeds in new exports to Cuba. (Spanish demands for
payment during the International Trade Fair were not well
taken, and other contacts tell us that the head of the
Spanish Chamber of Commerce had fallen from grace with the
GOC after publicly criticizing Cuba for letting unpaid bills
pile up.) Ambassador Cacho observed that the Cuban economy
is in a downward spiral with no sign of when or how it might
recover. His GOC interlocutors a year ago talked of
increasing opportunities for small scale enterprises
(paladares, etc.) and even timeshare developments, but such
talk has ceased.

COMMENT: VALUE IN COORDINATION
------------------------------

¶11. (C) Despite differences in our views, we see value in
coordinating with the GOS on human rights issues in Cuba both
in capitals and on the ground in Havana. Spain leads a
substantial bloc within the EU that favors engagement with
the GOC at almost any cost but will raise human
rights-related issues privately with the GOC when persuaded
to do so (e.g., the upcoming Damas en Blanco demarche and
previous efforts on behalf of Elsa Morejon). Spain desires
to speak for the entire EU when it comes to Cuba policy and
is quick to reinterpret the public statements of other EU
interlocutors, e.g., European Commissioner for Development
and Humanitarian Assistance de Gucht and EU Foreign Minister
Ashton, when they don't fit the Spanish line.
FARRAR

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