Wednesday, March 08, 2006

US/Cuba relations worst ever.

U.S.-Cuba relations 'worse than ever'
Bush administration policies to blame, Cuban official says
By Mike Williams
Sunday, March 05, 2006

WASHINGTON — Although the United States and communist Cuba severed
diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro's
revolution, the two countries have maintained "interests sections" in
lieu of embassies in each others' capitals since the Carter

Relations between Cuba and the United States have turned cold in
recent years as the Bush administration has tightened restrictions on
travel to Cuba, imposed new requirements on the limited trade allowed
between the two countries, and curtailed educational and cultural
programs that once saw thousands of Americans visiting the island.

Cuban diplomat Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera has headed the Cuban
Interests Section in Washington since 2001.

The Austin American-Statesman interviewed him recently about the
status of relations between Cuba and the United States. Excerpts:

Austin American-Statesman: How would you rate the state of relations
between Cuba and the United States?

Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera: My overall assessment is the
relationship is worse than ever. It's because the only purpose of
this administration toward Cuba is to achieve what they call regime

They are against any kind of communication with Cuba. They are not
interested in talking about common interests. They don't care about
migration. They don't care about drug trafficking or even terrorism.

Those are areas where Cuba has proposed formal talks, because we are
neighbors and we face similar problems. But this administration is
not interested in any of those issues.

The Bush administration has tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba.
What has been the impact in Cuba?

This administration has cut travel to Cuba to the bone.

They are afraid of ideas; they are afraid of people exchanging ideas
with the Cubans, of Americans talking to Cubans because they perceive
of this as something subversive. They are afraid they will come home
and express views against the blockade policy (the U.S. trade embargo
against Cuba).

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana recently erected an electronic
billboard on its roof to send messages to the Cuban people, saying
that Cuba is not an open or free society. What is your reaction?

They say they want to communicate with the Cuban people. In my
interpretation they should be communicating with themselves.

When they talk about human rights, about torture, the only place in
Cuba where there is torture is at Guantánamo (the U.S. naval base in
southeastern Cuba where terror suspects are jailed). I guess they are
referring to themselves.

Do you think relations could become so bad that this office would

It's a plan, an administration plan to provoke Cuba. They hope there
would be a reaction from Cuba, and they would be able to achieve
their final goal, which is to terminate the limited amount of
relations that we have.

Our plan is always to have normal relations with the American people,
to have normal free trade, to have cultural relations, to have sports
exchanges, to develop academic links between our countries. These are
our only plans, but believe me, at the same time, we say that we
won't hesitate to respond in a proper manner to any provocation from
the U.S. We don't fear this administration.

Cuba is one of the last communist countries in the world. Even China
is changing, adopting more of a free market. Does this put pressure
on Cuba to change?

Every country adopts the model that works for them. In Cuba we have a
model that suits Cuba. It relies on the state mechanism for providing
for the citizens' needs for living. . . . There is no other way to
reconcile those principles of equality with an expansion of free
market methods.

Fidel Castro will soon turn 80. Is Cuba preparing for the transition
to the day when he is no longer on the scene?

The day that Fidel Castro dies . . . there will be a tremendous shock
to the Cuban people because Fidel Castro has been a very important
person for our country.

But in Cuba there are institutions. It will be the law and
constitution that will dictate events in Cuba.

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