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Cablegate: Spain: May 21 Expressions of Solidarity with Cuba

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0567 1440643
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230643Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4812
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0275

UNCLAS MADRID 000567

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PHUM PREL EUN CU SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: MAY 21 EXPRESSIONS OF SOLIDARITY WITH CUBA

REF: A. STATE 51536

B. MADRID 493 AND PREVIOUS

1. (U) In observance of the May 21 "Day of Solidarity with
the Cuban People," conservative daily ABC published
Ambassador Aguirre's aptly entitled op-ed "Solidarity with
the Cuban People." The paper took heat in response from the
Cuban Ambassador to Spain, who said in a letter to the editor
May 22 that ABC once again "serves the U.S. empire in its
anti-Cuban maneuvers." ABC's editorial board, defending its
decision to publish Ambassador Aguirre's commentary, insisted
the Cuban ambassador's "lack of arguments" were nothing new,
and felt "honored by this diplomatic invective." All the
Spanish dailies reported May 22 on President Bush's
authorization to send cell phones to Cuba, with some calling
the announcement "a small opening in the embargo."

2. (U) At Post's suggestion, Mission contacts in the Cuban
community posted their event in observance of the Day of
Solidarity to the interactive world map on
www.solidaridadcuba.org. Their ceremony, hosted by the
Hispano-Cuban Foundation, featured a presentation by the
Secretary General of the Federation of Cuban Associations
(FECU) and honored three released political prisoners who
arrived in Spain the weekend of February 17: Jose Gabriel
Ramon Castillo, Omar Pernet, and Alejandro Gonzalez Raga.

3. (SBU) These same Cuban dissidents were also invited to a
coffee hosted by the Deputy Chief of Mission in observance of
Cuban Solidarity Day for a number of their supporters the
afternoon of May 21. The well attended session brought
together a wide swathe of the Cuban community in Spain, human
rights activists, two former political prisoners,
journalists, an opposition leader, and a Spanish official.
The spirited conversation went well over two hours. Invitees
expressed universal appreciation to the U.S. Mission for
hosting such an event.

4. (SBU) The DCM opened the Solidarity Day discussion by
reiterating the U.S. call for the release of all 240 Cuban
prisoners of conscience. Subsequent interventions expressed
solidarity with those prisoners. Carlos Paya, the Spanish
representative of the Christian Liberation Movement and
brother of dissident Osvaldo Paya, noted that just mentioning
the name of a prisoner could be life-saving. Raul Rivero, in
Madrid since 2006, and Alejandro Gonzalez Raga affirmed the
importance of keeping the spotlight on all prisoners and
spoke from their personal experiences about the powerful
messages that diplomatic actions convey to those still behind
bars. Gonzalez Raga described the perceived legitimization
of the Cuban regime and the demoralizing impact on political
prisoners of Spanish FM Moratinos's April 2007 visit to
Havana. Several participants agreed there was no such thing
as an "ex-prisoner," noting those prisoners who had been
released were immediately exiled to Spain and elsewhere and
were, in effect, still imprisoned.

5. (SBU) Jaume Segura Socias, Assistant Deputy Director for
Mexican, Central American, and Caribbean Affairs at the
Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, echoed the theme of
solidarity and maintained the GOS had not forgotten Cuba's
prisoners. Nonetheless, he reiterated the Spanish position
that diplomatic relations are carried out with a government
rather than with dissidents. He expressed optimism that
things were changing for the better in Cuba, calling Castro's
measures "small and modest, but advances." In a room full of
would-be critics of Spanish policy toward Cuba, he fought
hard for common ground while defending the importance of
different approaches: "to each one a role to play." The
self-styled spokeswoman for Cuban dissident groups, Elena
Larrinaga, picked up on the unpopular theme, acknowledging
"someone has to talk to (the Cuban government)." Though it
was an opportunity for many to air their differences in terms
of approaching the Cuban government, in the end attendees
shared common ground in their expressions of solidarity with
the Cuban people and their concerns over the plight of
political prisoners. The forum also provided a good lead-in
to the Spanish Cuban community's participation in upcoming
events in Brussels the week of May 26 and in preparation for
the EU's review of the suspended restrictive measures.
Aguirre

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