Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vatican: Cuba doesn't pose a threat to U.S.

This confidential January cable recaps a conversation with Monsignor Angelo Accattino, the Vatican's point person on Cuba.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10VATICAN14 2010-01-21 16:04 2010-12-10 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican

VZCZCXRO4244
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHROV #0014/01 0211621
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211621Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1243
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0048
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0036
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 0043
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0045
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0093
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0130
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1282

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000014

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/21/2030
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KIRF CU VT
SUBJECT: VATICAN OFFICIAL ON CUBA RELATIONS WITH EU AND U.S.

REF: STATE 131637

VATICAN 00000014 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael P. Foley, Pol Chief.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
Summary

¶1. (C) The Vatican's point person on Cuba, Monsignor Accattino,
supports EU dialogue with Cuba and said the U.S. should refrain
from unilateral actions against Cuba that play into the hands of
the Castros - or Hugo Chavez. This is particularly true, he
said, of decisions like identifying Cubans as nationals of
particular concern in air travel. The Vatican is concerned that
the disastrous economic situation on the island and political
tension could lead to bloodshed. Accattino added the "new Fidel
Castro" in the Western Hemisphere is Chavez. In a separate
meeting, another Vatican official recommended that the U.S. do
everything within its power to ensure low rates for Cubans
phoning the U.S. End summary.

EU Should Engage Cuba

---------------------

¶2. (C) DCM and polchief met with Accattino on January 14 to
discuss USG views on EU dialogue with Cuba (ref. A). Accattino
was ambivalent about the pros and cons of a common EU position
on Cuba. He said it was important to coordinate approaches, but
implied a preference for the soft approach of Spain over that of
Poland or the Czech Republic as being more conducive to a
positive response from the Cubans. Nevertheless, he conceded
that human rights should be part of the agenda in EU dialogue
with Cuba and in specific European capitals' individual
dialogues with Havana. However, he thought that the island's
blatantly poor human rights record should not block engagement
with Cuba any more than it does with other rights-abusing
nations. After all, he said, the U.S. and the EU engage other
countries that violate human rights, like China.

U.S. Should Not Be a Hostage to Cuba

---------------------------------------

¶3. (C) Accattino thought U.S. domestic politics had a
counterproductive impact on USG-Cuba policy. As an example, he
pointed to the recent USG decision to expand screening of Cubans
entering the U.S. by air. Despite being a state sponsor of
terrorism, Cuba does not really pose a real threat to the U.S.,
he said, so the designation was purely for domestic political
reasons. Accattino thought this was unjustified, and played
into regime hard-liners' portrayal of the U.S. as intrinsically
hostile.

¶4. (C) Looking ahead, Accattino said Cuba's economic and social
situations are becoming so bad that people could react
violently. If that happens, he added, some in and outside of
Cuba could blame the U.S. for having contributed to the
situation. The U.S. should not allow itself to be held hostage
by domestic politics to maintain the current "counterproductive
policy."

¶5. (C) Moreover, Accattino thought that U.S. policies toward
Cuba help Chavez, "who is the true, new successor of Fidel
Castro in Latin America." Unlike Fidel, he added, Chavez has
oil revenues to support his Bolivarian revolution.

Keep Those Phone Rates Low

--------------------------

¶6. (C) In a separate conversation with the Ambassador on the
margins of a reception on January 15, Monsignor Nicolas
Thevenin, the political advisor to Secretary of State Cardinal
Bertone, commended the U.S. for allowing U.S. telecommunication
companies pursue business in Cuba. Thevenin, who served as a
Vatican diplomat in Cuba years ago, continues to follow
developments on the island. He hoped the USG could lean on
telecommunications companies to make sure that rates for Cubans
to call the U.S. would be very low. This, he thought, could
have a positive impact in promoting political change.

Comment

-------

¶7. (C) Accattino reiterated the Vatican line about always
engaging in dialogue, no matter how unpleasant the interlocutor.
He also made it clear that the Vatican is far more concerned
about Chavez than Raul Castro, considering him more dangerous
and with a longer reach (not to mention younger). For this
reason, the Vatican has welcomed recent USG gestures towards
Cuba warmly and advocates further USG actions that, the Vatican
believes, would make it increasingly difficult for Caracas or
Havana to blame Cuba's economic and social failures on
Washington. End comment.
DIAZ

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