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Raul Castro Avoids the Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz /

Translating Cuba, Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

People visiting Havana for the first time agree on the similarities of

this city with Cadiz. The cultural similarities and certain visual

resemblances tie the Cuban capital to its Andalusian first cousin. The

presence of the sea, some of the architectural style, and the open

behavior of its people, complete the embrace.

But not even this closeness has moved Raul Castro to participate in the

XXII Ibero-American summit that began November 16 in this Spanish town.

The Cuban leader preferred to send his Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez.

Raul Castro travels little and when he does he prefers politically

like-minded countries. , Russia, and are among

his few destinations since he assumed the office of the presidency in

February 2008. His absence in Cadiz was expected, as he has never gone

to any Ibero-American summits in other countries. Perhaps he prefers to

avoid possible critiques of the state of Human Rights on the Island.

But the General is just one among many absent from this meeting. His

counterpart Hugo also will not attend, nor will the Argentine

president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has offered the excuse of

problems. The recent earthquake in Guatemala has prevented the

trip of Otto Perez-Molina, while the Paraguayan Federico Franco has

excluded himself given his strained relations with his Latin American

neighbors. So many empty chairs has robbed some of the luster from an

event that for several years now has captured less and less interest in

the region.

The main theme of this Ibero-American Summit deals with the world

economic situation and ways to cope. Cuba has not escaped the red ink. A

year is ending in which Raul Castro's reforms have failed to boost the

productivity of the country as was hoped. Not even the relaxations in

the rules governing self-employment have resulted in an improvement over

Cubans' deteriorating standard of living.

To top it off, hurricane Sandy damaged more than 137,000 homes — wholly

or partially — in the east of the Island. Thousands of homeless and a

delicate epidemiological situation, complete the picture.

Nor has foreign taken off on the island, although the large

number of guests at the last International Fair of Havana (FIHAV) might

make one think otherwise. The international crisis and businesses' lack

of confidence in the Cuban "opening," are among the reasons for the

slowness with which that sector is moving. Everywhere we look we see the

country's urgent need for fresh, new and convertible capital.

The Carromero Case

Beyond Raul Castro's absence at the Cadiz Summit, the most conspicuous

issue that touches the Cuban side seems to be that of the Spaniard Angel

Carromero. Detained in Cuba since July 22, this young leader of the

Popular Party's New Generations, was driving the car that killed regime

opponents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero. A court has convicted

Carromero of "involuntary manslaughter," though Payá's family is still

demanding an independent investigation.

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, José Manuel

García-Margallo, said on Friday that Havana will consider a "formal

request" from Madrid asking for the return of Angel Carromero. "The

Government has put forward a formal request. The Cuban government has

promised that it will consider it," Garcia Margallo said in an interview

with Cadena Ser, in response to a question about whether he had

discussed the issue with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who

arrived in Cadiz on Thursday.

And Human Rights?

Last week the Cuban opposition experienced days of vertigo from an

escalation of arrests. On Wednesday, November 7, the independent

attorney Yaremis Flores, 29, was outside her home in Havana.

Dozens of opponents gathered peacefully outside several stations

to demand her release.

State Security responded with a heavy hand, leading more than thirty of

these dissidents to the dungeons. Among them were several former

prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 and the European Parliament's

Sakharov Prize winner, journalist Guillermo Fariñas.

Antonio Rodiles, who at age 40 is the director of a political-cultural

project called Estado de SATS (State of SATS), remains behind bars.

And all this happened a few days after the foreign ministers of the

() in Brussels discussed the possibility of promoting a

new relationship with Cuba.

Relations between the EU and the government of Havana are currently

limited by the so-called Common Position, adopted by the EU in 1996 at

the initiative of the Spanish government of José María Aznar. The

Common Position conditions any progress in relations on improvements in

the situation of human rights on the Island.

With respect to this, García-Margallo said that "necessary and

sufficient conditions" do not exist to modify the Europe's Common

Position with regards to the largest of the Antilles, however he allowed

as how, within this Common Position, "there is room for a flexible

interpretation" that allows "reaching an agreement of cooperation with


17 November 2012


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