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. Venezuela, Russia, China and Vietnam 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 Chavez also will not attend, nor will the Argentine
president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who has offered the excuse of
health 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 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 investment 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 arrested outside her home in Havana.
Dozens of opponents gathered peacefully outside several police 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.
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