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Cablegate: Cuba Vote Provokes Largely Positive Reactions In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS GUATEMALA 001066

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

HARARE FOR BRUCE WHARTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV SNAR GT CU
SUBJECT: CUBA VOTE PROVOKES LARGELY POSITIVE REACTIONS IN
GUATEMALA


1. (SBU) Summary: Unlike previous years, Guatemala's vote in
favor of the 2003 Cuba resolution at the UN Human Rights
Commission drew favorable editorials in the press. Cuba's
repression of dissidents and the execution of the three
hijackers led to a steady stream of press criticism of
Castro's regime in the lead up to the vote. The only public
criticism of the GOG vote came from some human rights leaders
who oppose US policy in Cuba, and are prepared to be more
tolerant of the situation of human rights on the island. End
Summary.

2. (U) Leading daily Prensa Libre carried two editorials
April 21, entitled "Guatemala Sided with the Good Guys in
Geneva," and "The Pathetic Case of Fidel Castro," which
praised the GOG's decision to take a stand against recent
human rights violations in Cuba. With reference to the
recent crackdown, the latter editorial stated, "In these
circumstances, to remain quiet in the face of unfair
practices is to become an accomplice to an old man who has
lost his mind...and leaves the door open for chaos in Cuba
when he dies." The press, which is largely anti-government,
accused the Portillo government of being spineless in the
days before the UNCHR vote, when insinuations that the GOG
was going to abstain in Geneva were appearing on the same
pages as reports of new egregious actions by the Cubans to
repress dissent. The press, which in previous years had
editorialized against the GOG's vote in favor of the Cuba
resolution as a sell-out to the USG, called on the GOG to
vote for the resolution this year and then praised the GOG
for voting in a principled manner. We attribute part of this
change to the press' favorable analysis of the USG's
criticism of GOG corruption and abuses in the last year.

3. (SBU) At the Ambassador's request, Human Rights Officer
engaged leaders of the human rights community in the weeks
previous to the vote to seek public support for imprisoned
Cuban dissidents. Some said they would "ask the Cuban
Embassy privately for an explanation of the recent crackdown
against dissidents," but none engaged the press before the
vote. After the vote, in an op-ed in daily El Periodico,
human rights activist Miguel Angel Albizures wrote that,
while the role of the USG in determining international policy
towards Cuba is condemnable, that is no excuse for the Castro
regime's brutal crackdown against dissidents. Other human
rights leaders openly opposed the vote, however. In Siglo
Veintiuno, Orlando Blanco, director of CONADEHGUA, a leading
human rights NGO, said, "it is important to guard the rights
of the Cubans. Guatemala caved in to American pressures in
order to help with recertification efforts."

4. (SBU) COMMENT: While the GOG had argued that voting in
favor of the Cuba resolution at the UNCHR would have a
political cost, in fact public opinion as measured in the
press was clearly shocked by Castro's recent human rights
crackdown and called on the GOG to punish Castro with its
vote. With the exception of a couple of human rights leaders
who have long opposed our policies in Cuba, Guatemalans have
reacted positively to their government's principled vote in
Geneva.
HAMILTON

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