Cablegate: France: Wha Das Madison Discusses Cuba

DE RUEHFR #7109/01 3031310
P 301310Z OCT 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 007109



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2016

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Josiah Rosenblatt, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In October 18-19 meetings with WHA DAS
Kirsten Madison, MFA A/S-equivalent for WHA affairs Parfait
agreed that Cuba was likely entering a period of transition
and needed international support in evolving toward
democratic governance, while cautioning against interference
in Cuban internal affairs and the risk of violence if the
international community pushed for too much change too fast.
He agreed on the importance of promoting economic rights as a
lever for change and proposed the creation of an informal
"contact group" to coordinate policy on Cuba. UMP governing
party Latin American expert, Pascal Drouhaut, whose views and
publications on foreign affairs remain influential, agreed on
the importance of an internationally coordinated framework
for democratic transition in Cuba and undertook to underline
the importance of peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba in
his writings and presentations. Two French Senators who had
recently visited Cuba were more pointed in relating their
personal impressions that Cuban anti-Americanism was likely
to be an obstacle to U.S.-dominated efforts to encourage
democratic change on the island and applauded U.S. efforts to
enlist international cooperation in the effort. End summary.

2. (C) Deputy Assistant Secretary Kirsten Madison met on
October 18 with the MFA Assistant Secretary-equivalent for
the Western Hemisphere Daniel Parfait, PDAS-equivalent
Jean-Marc Laforet, DAS-equivalent Blandine Kreiss (Cuba and
Nicaragua desk officers also attended) followed by a separate
meeting with Mr. Pascal Drouhaud, the former director of
international relations of the ruling Union for Popular
Movement (UMP). Deputy PolCouns and Poloff accompanied
Madison. On October 19, DAS Madison and Poloff met with the
President and Vice-President of the French Senatorial
delegation that visited Cuba in May.


3. (C) MFA Assistant Secretary-equivalent Daniel Parfait
noted that Cuba discussions were timely given Castro,s ill
health and upcoming November 7 EU consultations on Cuba.
Parfait listened to and signaled his agreement with
Madison,s explanation that Fidel Castro,s departure from
the scene as Cuba,s head of state -- he had already
effectively handed over power to the institutions that
comprise the dictatorship -- offered the international
community an opportunity to support Cuban civil society to
pressure Cuban authorities for greater openness. Madison
emphasized the U.S. view that only Cubans on the island can
lead a process of change. Madison noted that the Cuban
regime is likely to "court8 the international community with
gestures toward economic opening but that &meaningful
opening8 would center on the restoration of economic rights
to Cubans. Madison noted that economic domination and
deprivation were key to the regime's control of its citizens.
Madison cited the use of the Sullivan principles in South
Africa to help restore the &economic citizenship8 of South
Africans and noted the existence of a set of similar
principles for Cuba drafted by Cuban democracy activist
Guillermo Arcos.

4. (C) Parfait said the GOF shared overall U.S. objectives, and he recalled that in October 2005 the French and Cuban Foreign Ministers had a &brief and brutal8 meeting in which FM Douste-Blazy had exhorted the Cubans to no avail to release imprisoned dissidents. Parfait inquired about a broad range of U.S. evaluations of the current state of Castro,s health, Raul,s potential as a leader, the condition of Cuban civil society, and the immediate outlook for change in coming months. Parfait agreed with Madison,s central point that the key to progress lay in empowering the Cuban people to decide how to govern themselves, but he repeatedly stressed the importance of proceeding at a pace that avoided reactionary violence or offending Cuban nationalistic pride. While there were those in the EU who favored cutting off relations with the GOC, France was not among them and favored a critical dialogue. (Kreiss frowned when Madison mentioned that the U.S. had discussed with Spain the idea of a joint U.S.-E.U. statement of principles for Cuba that would lay out the expectations of the international community and seek to create momentum.) Parfait advocated offering broad support to Cuban civil society in lieu of focusing disproportionately on assisting the regime,s most vocal critics in order to avoid being accused of sowing dissent or interfering in Cuba's internal affairs. He expressed an interest in working for the release of political prisoners.

5. (C) Parfait offered two follow-up actions concerning Cuba:
that a French delegation visit Washington and Miami in early
2007 for meetings with both American interlocutors and Cuban
expatriates and that consideration be given to creating an
informal international "contact group" to gather to discuss
events in Cuba more regularly. He mentioned other regional
players ) Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela ) as well as France
as potential members. French interlocutors seemed unaware of
the recently held Cuba conference in Miami that was sponsored
by, among others, the Hungarian Government. Parfait also
raised the question of what would happen to properties owned
by the GOC and whether Cuban exiles would remain in the U.S.
or return to Cuba.

6. (C) Kreiss expressed her view that democratic transition in Cuba would be slow, incremental, and best supported by scrupulously avoiding anything that could be perceived as external meddling. She probed U.S. thinking on the unsuitability of Raul Castro as successor to Castro and wondered aloud whether the Helms-Burton Amendment impeded more than it promoted potential progress in Cuba. Madison explained that U.S. Cuba policy and law provided ample margin to reward positive change and reinforce a transition process leading toward democratic elections, and was in fact designed with precisely that conditionality in mind. Kreiss speculated that the Cuban population might be too attached to the regime,s attendant benefits -- notably free, high-quality education and health care -- to push more vigorously for change. Madison noted that much of the population was indeed tentative about pressing for reform, but that this hesitancy derived largely from fear of government reprisals, given that the government controlled employment and ration cards, and because of increasing repression.

7. (C) Madison underlined to Drouhaut the importance of a
shared outlook on both sides of the Atlantic towards
post-Castro transition in Cuba. She noted the U.S. view
that, in the absence of positive change on the island, the
regime would likely grow less stable and more repressive over
time. To forestall that danger, the United States and its
European partners needed to help keep open space for Cubans
to lead a process of democratic transition on the island and
to create expectations about what such a transition would
look like. Drouhaut agreed on the importance of transition
to democracy in Cuba and indicated he would emphasize it in
his writings and presentations

8. (C) Madison,s October 19 breakfast with the France/Cuba Friendship Committee,s President and Vice-President in the French Senate entailed a frank exchange of views, based on the Senators' recent visit to Cuba in May. Senator Piras argued that anti-Americanism in Cuba, born as much of national pride and resentment as deriving from government manipulation, would be an enormous obstacle to any U.S.-directed effort to prompt reform in Cuba. Madison respectfully disagreed. She underscored that it is the view of the U.S. that only Cubans can lead change on their island and noted that the real test of Cuban nationalism may be in confronting Venezuelan involvement in post-Castro Cuba. The legislators characterized the U.S. embargo as &the decision to kill a fly with a sledge hammer8 and claimed this had elicited widespread bitterness and hostility among the Cubans they met. Madison noted that, in the absence of change on the island, lifting the U.S. embargo would only strengthen the existing repressive system. She underscored that flexibility in U.S. policy derives from positive change on the island and indicated that Helms-Burton contemplates U.S. engagement to reinforce a transition process that leads toward democratic elections. Despite these differences, both legislators expressed appreciation for Madison's willingness to engage, commenting that this was the first time that the United States had approached the Senate concerning Cuba.


9. (C) Madison underlined the importance of the Nicaraguan elections for Central America and the critical importance of the EU election observation mission there. She stressed that voter education designed to explain to Nicaraguans the new electoral rules and that good voter turnout would be key to thwarting Daniel Ortega's ambition to win in the first round. Parfait expressed his frustration that, despite receiving generous EU aid, Nicaragua and other Central American countries seemed unable to reform or to move beyond its history of corrupt politics. Madison countered that it was the U.S. view that Central America in general, and Nicaragua specifically, had made significant progress and that the upcoming election had the potential to do something important for Nicaragua,s future: to consolidate the birth of more modern political parties on both the left and right.

10. (C) Madison expressed the view that change in Cuba was
likely to have a positive reinforcing effect on the process
of modernizing leftist revolutionary parties in the region.
Parfait agreed that this was what was needed.


11. (C) Madison expressed at the outset of the meeting USG
appreciation for France's support for Guatemala,s bid for a
seat at the UN Security Council.

12. (U) This message was cleared by DAS Madison.
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at: fm

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