Friday, January 6, 2012

Former spanish ambassador to Cuba to head relations with Latin America

Posted on Thursday, 01.05.12


Former spanish ambassador to Cuba to head relations with Latin America

Jesus Gracia Aldaz was ambassador in Havana when Cuban government jailed
75 dissidents
By Juan O. Tamayo

A Spanish diplomat who served as ambassador in Havana from 2001 to 2004
was appointed Thursday to head the Foreign Ministry section that handles
Spain's relations with Latin America.

Jesús Gracia Aldaz, named as Secretary of State for Iberoamerica, was
Spain's ambassador to Cuba when Havana courts sentenced 75 dissidents to
lengthy prison terms during a crackdown in 2003 known as "Cuba's Black

He was appointed to the Cuba post in 2001 by the conservative People's
Party government of Prime Minister José Maria Aznar and left the island
in 2004, when socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero succeeded Aznar. PP
leader Mariano Rajoy took over as prime minister after his party won the
November elections.

Joaquin Roy, who heads the European Union Center at the University of
Miami, noted that while Gracia is experienced in Spanish-Cuban
relations, he will have to follow the policy guidelines set by Rajoy and
Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo.

"Everything depends on how active Rajoy and García-Margallo want to be
on Cuba. I would be surprised if they start any 'harassment' (against
the Cuban government) … that goes beyond the verbal," Roy wrote in an
email to El Nuevo Herald.

After Cuba's crackdown in 2003, the Aznar government helped push member
nations of the European Union to adopt sanctions on Havana, such as
cutting back on government-to-government contacts and inviting
dissidents to embassy functions.

Rodríguez Zapatero and his foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos,
reversed course by pushing the EU nations to abandon the 2003 sanctions
and trying unsuccessfully to lift a EU "Common Position" that loosely
links EU assistance to Cuba's human rights record.

The socialist government also eliminated the title of Secretary of State
for Iberoamerica in 2010. Gracia Aldaz' appointment to the resurrected
title points to Rajoy's stated goal of warming up relations with Latin

The 51-year old Gracia Aldaz is currently the No. 2 at the Spanish
embassy in Argentina and has served in top positions in the government
agencies that are in charge of assistance to Latin American and other

A post Thursday in the Spain-based blog CubaEncuentro argued that Cuba
issues have a low priority for the Rajoy government because of Spain's
many domestic problems and the hefty Spanish investments in the Cuban
tourism and oil industries. The Spanish Repsol company is spearheading
the island's offshore oil exploration efforts.

But Rajoy also is unlikely to continue the Rodriguez Zapatero
government's strong push to drop the EU's Common Position, and trouble
may lie ahead, added the post, signed by Tony Gonzalez.

"Somewhere along there will be confrontation, and diplomatic notes with
insults and apologies," the post noted.

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