Cablegate: Media Report: Fidel Castro
DE RUEHSG #0165/01 0512025
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 202025Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2806
INFO RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0100
UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000165
STATE FOR R/MR, I/PP, WHA/BSC, WHA/PDA, WHA/CCA
STATE FOR INR/IAA, PM, INL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KPAO KMDR PHUM PGOV CI
SUBJECT: MEDIA REPORT: FIDEL CASTRO
1. Summary: Santiago dailies on February 20 ran extensive coverage
of Fidel Castro's resignation. Dailies quoted President Bush
calling for a democratic transition in Cuba and Deputy Secretary of
State John Negroponte's remarks that the U.S. would not lift the
embargo. Newspaper-of-record "El Mercurio" ran en editorial stating
that Cuba's transition will largely depend on the U.S. stance.
Remaining coverage summarized reactions in Chile and recapped
Catro's nearly 50 years in power. End Summary.
Coverage of U.S. Reaction
2. El Mercurio, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
(circ. 129,000, 2/20) headlined: "The U.S. embargo on Cuba becomes
the main topic of discussion"
3. "President Bush said Castro's resignation should be the
beginning of a democratic transition for Cuba and called for the
release of political prisoners on the island. But the President did
not comment on one of the central issues of his country's relations
with Cuba -- the embargo.... John Negroponte did.... Negroponte
dismissed any gesture by the Bush administration toward the
post-Fidel government of alleviating the embargo. 'I don't think
that will happen in the immediate future,' said Negroponte
4. La Nacion, government-owned, editorially independent (circ.
4,200) ran: "U.S. will keep the embargo on Cuba" Subheadline read:
The second man in the Department of State, John Negroponte, ruled
out lifting the embargo "in the near future."
5. "President Bush was not satisfied with Castro's retirement and
said he would keep the embargo on the island. He also reiterated
his demand for a democratic transition in the island. 'I see this
as a period of transition that could be the beginning of a
democratic transition for the people of Cuba,' said Bush."
GOC and Other Local Reactions
6. Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Alberto Van Klaveren said
Castro's resignation "marks the end of a cycle and the beginning of
another. He said Chile must follow the process "with respect and
interest," and expressed the GOC's interest in having "absolutely
normal relations" with Cuba ("El Mercurio").
7. Government-spokesman Francisco Vidal said the government hopes
that Castro's resignation "will take the island to a new horizon,"
adding that it is important that the government and the people of
Cuba "decide that new path." ("La Nacion").
8. Christian Democratic Party leader Nelson Haddad said Castro's
resignation "opens a window of opportunity to begin the transition
toward a representative democracy that includes the reestablishment
of political rights and freedom."
9. Renovacion Nacional President Carlos Larrain stated: There will
be no changes, because the Communist Party is still in power ("El
10. Carlos Tudela (DC) said: "We hope this new political scenario
reflects respect for human rights, individual freedom, democratic
principles" ("La Nacion").
11. Socialist Party President Camilo Escalona stated: Cuba must
resolve its future challenges without foreign
Intervention (afternoon "La Segunda," circ. 33,000).
13. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza: "Any change must
stem from democratic and peaceful dialogue from within Cuba and
under no circumstances from abroad" (Leading-circulation, popular
"Las Ultimas Noticias," circ. 140,000).
14. "Estrategia," business and financial (circ. 30,000) editorial
entitled, "Uncertain Transition in Cuba" concludes: "All in all,
Castro's decision is a positive event that could bring a better
future for his fellow citizens."
15. "La Tercera," conservative, independent (circ. 101,000) "Fidel
Castro's resignations: An Upredictable Transition"
"The consensus is that Cuba is heading toward a transition, because
the type of regime on the island today... is not viable without
Fidel. In this transition, a key element will be the U.S.
stance.... Will Washington be more proactive now that the Castro
regime is beginning to write it final chapter...? The second man in
the Department of State said yesterday that the embargo on the
island would not end any time in the near future. That is a
discouraging sign, because there are grounded reasons to believe
that the embargo helped Castro remain in power rather than hurt him.
16. It is not in anyone's interest for the situation in Cuba to
deteriorate... and there is no reason for this to happen, except in
the case of international intervention.... In any case, the first
mistake would be to assume that Castro and his regime are dead."