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Cablegate: Spain/Cuba: Title Iii of Libertad Act

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0580/01 1441426
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231426Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4829

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 000580

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR DAVID MCFARLAND, WHA/CCA AND FOR NICOLE
OTALLAH, EUR/ERA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/23/2017
TAGS: ETRD ETTC PREL SP CU
SUBJECT: SPAIN/CUBA: TITLE III OF LIBERTAD ACT

REF: A. STATE 52541
B. 2007 MADRID 2188
C. MADRID 567

Classified By: Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Josie Shumake, for reason
s 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) The information in this message is keyed to questions
posed in reftel A, paragraph 5 and updates information
reported in reftel B.

2. (C) Has the host country, in Post's opinion, worked to
promote the advancement of democracy and human rights in
Cuba? Spain hosted a highly publicized Human Rights Dialogue
Mechanism with Cuba on February 11. MFA Political Director
Rafael Dezcallar told us the GOS had presented a list of
20-30 prisoners of conscience, including Oscar Biscet, to the
Cuban Government. Though no public linkage was made, Cuba
subsequently released four political prisoners and allowed
them to travel to Spain, where they arrived February 17, in
search of medical treatment. Spanish Secretary of State for
Latin American Affairs Trinidad Jimenez personally assured
the new February arrivals and their families the support of
her government. The GOS is currently considering the
application of one prisoner, Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo, for
political asylum in Spain. The other three dissidents,
Alejandro Gonzalez Raga, Pedro Pablo Alvarez and Omar Pernet
accepted the residency permit offered by Spanish authorities.
Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos was authorized Spanish residency
May 9, and the MFA is working with the Spanish consulate in
Miami to bring five of his family members to Spain, where
they reportedly have offers of employment in Barcelona.

3. (C) In the wake of the human rights talks, Spanish
officials have suggested changes on the island were
attributable in part to the renewed dialogue. The GOS has
subsequently attempted to convince EU partners, including
during the May 16 EU-Latin American Summit in Lima, that the
Spanish-Cuban dialogue has achieved results that merit
lifting the (currently suspended) restrictive measures
imposed by the EU against Cuba in 2003. Spanish officials
told Cuba Transition Coordinator Caleb McCarry in April that
Spain was reluctant to put too much pressure on the
government of Raul Castro, and said Spain viewed
modifications announced by Cuba as openings to democratic
change. A Spanish diplomat reiterated to Cuban dissidents
gathered at the Deputy Chief of Mission's residence May 21
(ref C) the GOS view that Cuba has improved significantly
since 2003, hinting at the position Spain is expected to take
at June EU discussions to review the common position.
COMMENT: Post and CTC McCarry have stressed to the Spanish
that the elimination of the common position could legitimize
Raul,s rule. The EU could use the overall debate, with
Spain,s leadership, to press Cuba to take new action on
human rights. Though we are skeptical of what an EU-GOC
human rights dialogue would achieve if they do drop the
measures, the Spanish claim it would achieve new movement
from the Cubans. END COMMENT.

4. (C) Has the host country made other public statements or
undertaken other governmental actions . . . or actions in
support of civil society in Cuba through host country's
diplomatic missions or other fora? The Spanish Government
has viewed the February transfer of powers from Fidel to Raul
Castro as generally positive. Nonetheless, then-Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs Bernardino Leon stated February 27
that the GOS "does not defend a transition within the current
Cuban regime." Also in February, Spain denied on technical
grounds the asylum request of a Cuban diplomat defector,
Lorenzo Menndez, who arrived in Spain from France in
December 2007. Spanish officials and former President Aznar
met in early March with Elsa Morejon, the wife of
Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Oscar Biscet. Media
reported in association with the March 19 commemoration of
Cuba's Black Spring that Spanish President Zapatero had sent
a letter (dated January 28) to Laura Pollan (wife of Hector
Maseda) saying Spain would continue to do all it could to win
the freedom of political prisoners. Zapatero also expressed
admiration for the work of the Damas en Blanco and recognized
their "dignity and courage." The Damas who led the annual
march from the gates of Madrid,s Royal Palace to a
commemorative mass in the adjacent Cathedral of the Almudena
on March 18 read aloud President Zapatero,s letter along
with President Bush,s statement.

5. (U) Foreign Minister Moratinos, who visited Havana in
April 2007, included Cuba as part of Spain's foreign policy
agenda for the current Congress when he appeared May 22
before the body's Foreign Affairs Commission. In seeking
consensus with opposition parties on the agenda for debate,
Moratinos spoke in support of an open process of reform on
the island through "mutual respect" and "constructive
dialogue."

6. (C) Have there been any high-level diplomatic visits
between Cuba and the host country in the past six months?
There have been no high-level visits with the exception of
the aforementioned human rights talks. Ricardo Guerrero
Blanco, Cuban Vice Minister for Foreign Investment, met the
week of May 12 with Canary Islands businessmen who attended a
meeting in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to explore investment
opportunities in Cuba. Guerrero said the Cuban Government
viewed Canaries investment positively and offered Spanish
businessmen the opportunity to invest in hotel projects in
the regions of Camaguey and Ciego de Avila, as well as to
build golf courses and other leisure facilities, according to
press reports.

7. (C) What is the nature of investments (and names, if
known) that host country businesses have in Cuba?
Information on Spanish foreign investment in Cuba is limited,
in part because Spanish companies avoid publishing such data.
Spain's Ministry of Economy and Finance reports that during
the 1995-2007 period, Spanish investment in Cuba
amounted to roughly euros 4.7 billion (6 billion dollars).
The ministry reports that in 2007, Spanish companies invested
euros 4 million. The biggest Spanish investments are in the
tobacco and tourism sectors. Nine of the twelve foreign
companies that invest in the tourism sector in Cuba are
Spanish. There follow below names of Spanish companies
active in Cuba listed by sector:
Tourism: Globalia Hoteles, Sol Melia, NH Hoteles, Marsans,
Iberostar Group, Barcelo, Occidental, and RIU.
Financial Sector: BBVA, Banco Sabadell, Caja de Ahorros del
Mediterraneo, and Caja Madrid. (These institutions have
small representative offices that presumably do mostly
trade finance.)
Energy and other utilities: Repsol YPF, Aguas de Barcelona,
Endesa, and Iberdrola
Tobacco: Altadis
Airlines: Iberia
Dairy: Penasanta, S.A.

Note: In terms of actual money invested, the overwhelming
majority comes from the tourism companies and the tobacco
firm, Altadis. Repsol does some exploration work in Cuba,
and the other companies mentioned have representative
offices. On May 18, 2008, left-of-center daily El Pais
reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
had sent Repsol a letter asking the company about its
investments in Cuba. Repsol reportedly responded that since
2000, it has had permission to drill for oil in seven blocks
situated in Cuban waters, but that so far, it had not found
any oil.

8. (U) In April, the government of Cuba reportedly approached
Spain about the possibility of restructuring the repayment of
its debt, if the GOS would reinstitute export credits to
Spanish companies to invest in sectors of the Cuban economy
such as real estate development, road construction, and port
modernization. Cuba's debt to Spain totals 460 million
euros, plus an additional 400 millions euros being negotiated
in the Paris Club and a final 300 million euros of interest,
according to the media.

9. (C) Are there any bilateral trade agreements between host
country and Cuba? Although not necessarily strictly "trade"
treaties, the following agreements may be of interest:

Agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of
Cuba on Air Transportation, signed in Havana, April 22, 2005.
See Boletin Oficial de Espana (BOE - Spain's equivalent of
the Federal Register), 06/09/2006 - Section 1.
Agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of
Cuba on Mutual Customs Assistance, signed in Havana, August
8, 2001. See BOE 17/03/2003 - Section 1.
Agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of
Cuba on the Promotion and Protection of Investment, signed in
Havana on May 27, 1994. See BOE 06/10/2000 - Section 1.
Complementary Agreement on Tourism, signed in Havana on
September 10, 1978. See BOE 02/03/1987 - Section 1.
Agreement between the Republic of Cuba and the Kingdom of
Spain, signed in Madrid on October 3, 1985. See BOE
13/02/1986.

Note: Spain exported euros 668 million worth of goods and
services to Cuba in 2007, up from euros 629 million in 2006.
Spain imported good and services from Cuba worth euros 143
million in 2007, only about three million more than in 2006.
Spain exports mostly mechanical and electrical equipment,
appliances, hotel equipment, construction equipment,
automotive spare parts, chemicals and foodstuffs. Spain
imports mostly tobacco, liquor and fresh fish from Cuba. The
strong Spanish export performance in Cuba is somewhat
surprising as Spain's official export credit agency (CESCE)
does not guarantee export credits to Cuba. During 2007,
there were discussions about resuming export credit
guarantees, but that would first require a debt agreement
between Spain and Cuba. Thus far, Post is not aware such an
agreement has been reached. However, on September 29, 2007
the Spanish government did announce it would resume foreign
assistance to Cuba. There is an active Hispano-Cuban
Business Committee that promotes trade between the two
countries.

10. (C) Are there any exchange programs between host country
and Cuba? Post is not aware of any such exchange programs.
Aguirre

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