Spain's new foreign minister has visited Cuba many times, favored
engagement and patience
José Manuel García-Margallo has visited the island 11 times, advocated
engagement and patience
By Juan O. Tamayo
Spain's newly appointed Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has
visited Cuba at least 11 times and declared that its government cannot
stay in power by force forever, but counseled engagement and patience
rather than confrontation.
García-Margallo, appointed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Wednesday, is
expected to focus on critical issues such as the European Union's
financial chaos and relations with the United States and Moslem nations
across the Mediterranean.
But his past experiences with Cuba may serve him well in handling the
relations between Rajoy's right-of-center government and the island.
Rajoy's People's Party defeated the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party
(PSOE) in elections last month.
Miguel Angel Moratinos, who was foreign minister under former PSOE Prime
Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was fired in late 2010 amid
complaints that he was too friendly with Cuba and Venezuelan President
García-Margallo, 67, who has a law degree from Harvard, is known in the
European Parliament as a level-headed conciliator — a trait he showed in
an interview in 2000 with the Madrid-based magazine Libertad Digital —
While his interviewer branded Cuban rulers as dictators and murderers,
he chose his words carefully in describing his just-completed 11th visit
to Cuba — apparently many of them as a member of a European Parliament
economic panel that deals with Cuba issues.
García-Margallo said he had met with top government officials as well as
leading dissidents even though "it bothers the Cuban government when we
meet with dissidents. It bothers them a lot."
Asked how he could meet with such "evil" government officials, he
replied, "Politics is the art of the possible. You tell me: What else
can we do?"
"I believe that it's good that we visit the island and talk to everyone
that we can. The Cuban government has to know that we are watching
whatever happens to the dissidents," he noted.
García-Margallo added that it was not possible "to maintain a regime in
power by force permanently," but added that "trying to make them
surrender through hunger does not seem possible, or good. To seek a
bloodbath there cannot be the solution."
"I can affirm, with some knowledge, that until the plans for a
succession are carried out, there's not the least possibility of a
political change," he added.
In 2000, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was grudgingly beginning to adopt
some reforms in order to overcome the economic collapsed triggered by
the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the end of Moscow's huge subsidies.
García-Margallo said that Spanish investments in Cuba, which were
expanding rapidly at the time, were not a bad thing.
"One of the things that can happen, if there's a change in the regime,
would be an absolute Americanization, that Cuba would become another
Puerto Rico," he declared. "I would consider it deplorable if Cuba's
Spanish identity were to be lost."
Asked if he had any final words for the Cuban people, García-Margallo
replied, "Wait." The interviewer, Victor Llano, shot back, "I was afraid