Friday, December 17, 2010

Cuba sought `secret channel' to U.S.

Posted on Friday, 12.17.10
Cuba sought `secret channel' to U.S.

Cuba's Raúl Castro wanted to open secret talks with the White House in
late 2009 as the only way his government could ``make major moves toward
meeting U.S. concerns,'' according to senior Spanish diplomats cited in
new WikiLeaks cables.

Other leaked cables describe Cuba's traditional dissidents as old, with
little popular support and too many rivalries, penetrated by security
agents and too interested in U.S. aid. They suggest in the future U.S.
policy should look more to young bloggers and artists.

Castro has publicly offered to negotiate with Washington several times
since succeeding his brother, Fidel. But the cables indicate he prefers
secrecy for the give-and-take of negotiations with his government's
enemy of half a century.


Spain's ambassador in Havana, Manuel Cacho, mentioned Castro's interest
during a Dec. 2 meeting with the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, Jonathan
Farrar, according to a Dec. 5, 2009, cable signed by Farrar.

They also discussed an upcoming meeting between Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who
had met with Castro in Cuba five weeks earlier.

Cacho said Moratinos would tell Clinton ``of Cuba's interest, as
reportedly expressed to him by Raul Castro, for a `political channel' to
the U.S. government,'' the cable noted. ``Only via such a `political
channel' would the [Cuban government] be able to make major moves toward
meeting U.S. concerns.''

Moratinos did tell Clinton that Castro wanted ``a secret channel of
communication to the White House'' when they met Dec. 14, 2009, in
Spain, according to a later cable from the U.S. embassy in Madrid.

Both Clinton and Farrar told the Spaniards that if Castro wanted to
talk, he should use ``existing channels,'' according to WikiLeaks cables
first published by Spain's El País newspaper.


State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that U.S. and
Cuban diplomats are in touch routinely, but ``a broader, higher-level
dialogue . . . will only be feasible once we see real change in Cuba. .
. . We have not seen anything approaching fundamental change.''

On the dissidents, a Farrar cable dated April 15, 2009, said they
deserved U.S. support as ``the conscience of Cuba.''

It repeatedly blamed some of their problems on state security
penetrations designed to play on their egos and fuel rivalries. But the
cable also listed a string of shortcomings that Farrar believed made it
unlikely they would play any significant role in Cuba's future.

``Many opposition groups are prone to dominance by individuals with
strong egos who do not work well together,'' he wrote. ``We see very
little evidence that the main-line dissident organizations have much
resonance among ordinary Cubans.''


Many leading dissidents are in their 60s and ``have little contact with
younger Cubans and, to the extent they have a message . . . it does not
appeal to that segment of society,'' he added.

Their ``very valid'' focus on human rights does not resonate with Cubans
``who are more concerned about having greater opportunities to travel
freely and live comfortably,'' the dispatch noted.

Farrar added that dissidents also spend too much time trying to obtain
``enough resources to keep the principal organizers and their key
supporters living from day to day.''

And while much of their aid comes from exiles, Farrar wrote, many
dissidents complain the exiles want ``to undercut local opposition
groups so that they can move into power when the Castros leave.''

Instead of the traditional dissidents, he added, ``it is the younger
generation of `nontraditional dissidents'' who are ``likely to have a
greater long term impact on post-Castro Cuba.''

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