Cablegate: Spain: Libertad Act Title Iii Waiver Review

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 002492



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2014

REF: A. STATE 135512

B. MADRID 2315

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission J. Robert Manzanares,
reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The previous Spanish government under
President Jose Maria Aznar was long in the forefront within
the EU and on its own in criticizing Cuban human rights
abuses, lack of movement toward democracy and absence of
fundamental rights for Cuban citizens. The current
government under Socialist President Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero, who took office in mid-April this year, has not
softened Spain's position on Cuba but neither has it overtly
continued Aznar's strident criticism. The past six months
saw a continuation of Spain's actions and policies advocating
a tough stance against the Castro regime. Although it is
difficult to predict Zapatero's policies and actions toward
Cuba, the absence of a Title III suspension might encourage
the GOS to soften its position on Cuba both bilaterally and
within the EU. Moreover, Spain would likely claim the U.S.
has violated the common understanding reached with the EU
concerning the Libertad Act (the Act) in May 2000. End


2. (C) Embassy provides this review of Spain's recent Cuba
policy in response to ref A. Jose Maria Aznar's government
was a strident critic of the Castro regime practically until
the day Aznar departed office in mid-April 2004. Aznar was a
prime force behind the hardening of the EU's position on Cuba
after the Castro regime arrested more than 70 dissidents in
March 2003. In June 2003, the EU announced that as a result
of the arrest and sentencing of these dissidents, it would
encourage member states to limit bilateral high-level
government visits, reduce their participation in cultural
events, and invite Cuban dissidents to national day
celebrations. The EU also threatened to re-examine the EU's
common position on Cuba. The Aznar government pushed hard
for these measures and firmly supported them from the time
the measures were announced until it handed over power to the
Socialists in April. The Aznar government condemned the
Castro regime multiple times in that period for its human
rights abuses, lack of democratic reforms and failure to
guarantee fundamental rights for its citizens. As a result
of Spain's hard line, the Castro regime shut down Spain's
binational cultural center in Havana.

3. (C) In addition, at the USG's urging, the Aznar
government in April 2004 pressed Honduras to sponsor this
year's UNCHR resolution on Cuba. Honduras eventually did
sponsor the resolution (after considerable reluctance). The
Aznar government was also a key player in the EU's eventual
decision to oppose Cotonou membership for Cuba, forcing the
Castro regime to withdraw its application. In sum, the Aznar
government did much to advance democracy, human rights and
fundamental freedoms in Cuba while it was in power.

--------------------------------------------- --
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4. (C) Since taking office in mid-April, the Zapatero
government has not taken any actions or announced policy
modifications that change Spain's Cuba policy as it existed
under Aznar. As Embassy has previously reported (ref B),
Foreign Ministry officials have told us Spain will maintain
its tough stance on Cuba, saying Castro has done nothing to
merit softening of the strong stand Spain and the EU have
taken against the regime's human rights violations and
refusal to allow democratic reforms. The officials have
said, however, that the GOS would prefer to tone down the
rhetoric that went back and forth between Castro and Aznar,
and if possible, return to some form of dialogue with Cuba.
In the end, given Cuba's intransigence, they viewed this as
highly unlikely. They have also said they do not plan to
take the same leadership role Aznar did on Cuba within the EU
and would opt to be minimally involved in formulating or
influencing EU policy on Cuba.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (C) The GOS, like the EU, has always bristled at the Act
as a piece of extraterritorial legislation which is probably
contrary to the WTO and represents the imposition of U.S.
foreign policy on its friends and allies. Spain is also
bound by EU and subsequent Spanish implementing legislation
forbidding nationals or companies from cooperating with
foreign legislation such as that embodied in the Act.
Companies or nationals that do cooperate with foreign
governments to implement such measures will be prosecuted and
fined under Spanish law, and the GOS will be obliged to
report these events to the EU. Spain presumes the U.S. is
still acting under the May 2000 understanding with the EU
concerning enforcement of the Act and pursuit of a waiver.

6. (C) Despite Spain's opposition to the Act, the attitude
of the Aznar government toward the Castro regime was the
closest to ours of any Spanish government previously and one
of the closest, if not the closest, of any of our allies that
have ties to Cuba. While the Zapatero government may not be
as openly critical of Cuba as was its predecessor, it has
taken no action to soften Aznar's hard line. Were the waiver
not renewed, we expect the Zapatero government to contend the
EU-U.S. understanding on the Act had been broken.
Non-waiver would also give the GOS cover to seek
normalization of dialogue with Cuba, whatever that would
entail. Given Spain's long-standing hard line against Cuba
and the fact that by all appearances the Zapatero government
plans to continue that hard line (even if it does not plan to
be as critical as Aznar), the USG would have little to gain
and much to lose in achieving its foreign policy goals by not
renewing the waiver.


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