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Cablegate: Spain/Cuba: Title Iii of the Libertad Act


DE RUEHMD #1121/01 3271031
R 231031Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 001121



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2019

REF: A. STATE 115416

Classified By: Acting DCM William H. Duncan, for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Per request in reftel A, Post provides the following
for use in assessing whether to recommend that the President
continue to suspend Title III of the Cuban Liberty and
Solidarity (Libertad) Act. The information in this message
is keyed to questions posed in reftel A, paragraph 4 and
updates information reported in reftel B regarding the
relationship between the Cuban government and the Government
of Spain.

2. (SBU) Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos was the
highest-ranking Spanish official to visit Cuba during the
period covered by this report. The visit (refs E, F), the
subsequent "release" of two political prisoners, and the
ongoing debate about Spain's efforts to replace the EU's
Common Position are the key factors in evaluating Spanish
contributions to democratic change in Cuba during this
period. Speculation that was rife during the first half of
2009 over a possible visit to Cuba by Spanish President
Zapatero had all but dissipated at the end of the summer, in
the wake of Cuba's expulsion in May of a team of Spanish
intelligence agents and as the GOS anticipated changes in
United States policy toward Cuba and toward its own EU
presidency in 2010. Asked about an anticipated trip by
President Zapatero to Cuba, Moratinos said October 18 that
given the exigencies of the EU Presidency, a Zapatero visit
was not anticipated in the near future.

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3. (C) Has the host country, in Post's opinion, worked to
promote the advancement of democracy and human rights in Cuba?

The Spanish Government supports democratic objectives
in Cuba. Nonetheless, its focus on building relationships
and its fear of both provoking a backlash against human
rights activists and jeopardizing Spanish economic interests
limit Spain's willingness to take tough stands against the
regime. With the European Union, Spain continues to seek
political and economic engagement with Cuba and to play a
leadership role in the EU's political and human rights
dialogue with Cuba. During the period covered by this
report, Spanish officials alluded to Spain's hopes for even
greater EU-Cuba engagement during Spain's EU presidency in
the first half of 2010. FM Moratinos has spoken increasingly
of the possibility of replacing the EU's 1990 Common Position
toward Cuba during the Spanish EU presidency. Spain is
expected to encourage the EU27 to start negotiating an
alternative cooperation agreement with Cuba, to include a
"democratic clause" and requirements with regard to Human
Rights and Rule of Law, as a precursor to eliminating the
Common Position. (NOTE: A bi-partisan, non-binding roadmap
for the Spanish presidency agreed to November 18 makes no
mention of Cuba, however.)

4. (C) MFA officials claim the Zapatero Administration
remains committed to the spirit of the Common Position but
Spain seeks to initiate an EU process to find a new way to
relate to Cuba that includes a political dialogue conditioned
on results. Though the European Commission would decide
among various forms of accords, the GOS says a new country
strategy paper with a democratic clause that puts everything
on the table would be stricter than the existing Common
Position. FM Moratinos testified in the Senate on November
17 that not a single EU country had spoken against his
intention to replace the Common Position on Cuba during
Spain's EU Presidency. According to Moratinos, some other
European countries might try to make adjustments, but the
Spanish proposal -- to negotiate a bilateral EU-Cuba
agreement that would lead to greater Cuban compliance with
human rights and engagement on reform activities -- was not
encountering any opposition.

5. (C) Following Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos's
October 17-19 trip to Havana, reportedly as a concession to
the GOS, Cuba announced October 20 the release of two
individuals and eased travel restrictions for two prominent
dissidents seeking medical attention. Moratinos claimed
publicly that the releases were proof that Spain,s policy of
engagement achieved positive results. Cuba commuted the
sentence (already half completed) of Nelson Aguiar, aged 64,
one of the Group of 75 condemned in 2003. Spanish

businessman Pedro Hermosilla, detained several weeks earlier
in Havana on bribery charges, was released on bail the night
of October 19, reportedly at the request of Moratinos.
Lazaro Angulo, another of the Group of 75, had been granted
provisional release in 2006 for health reasons but was
prevented from leaving Cuba. As of October 20, Angulo was
"free without conditions" (presumably to seek medical care in
Costa Rica or the Untied States). A fourth individual, Elsa
Morejon, the wife of imprisoned activist Dr. Oscar Biscet,
who already had a GOC-issued health exit permit, was allowed
by her handlers to travel in search of medical treatment.
(She has been under a doctor's care in Oviedo since November
3.) Post's dissident contacts called the Moratinos trip and
subsequent news of the releases "absurd" and "stingy"
(cochinilla) and dismissed the lessening of restrictions on
Angulo's and Morejon's movement, saying the Cuban government
had no right to prevent free people from pursuing medical
care. Asked whether the MFA felt it could take credit for
the "releases" and whether Spain was satisfied, Director
General for IberoAmerican Affairs Juan Carlos Sanchez Alonso
conceded they were insufficient but "better than nothing."
Cuba wanted to send a message and the GOS, though it wants
all the prisoners to be released, encouraged the Cuban
government to allow the sickest of the prisoners to leave.

6. (C) Has the host country made public statements or
undertaken other governmental actions, such as resolutions in
national assemblies condemning human rights abuses in Cuba;
or actions in support of civil society in Cuba through the
host country's diplomatic missions or other fora?

President Zapatero publicly supported U.S. overtures
toward Cuba on May 24, saying it was up to Raul Castro to
make the next move. GOS officials have been generally
supportive of U.S. policy initiatives, sometimes suggesting
the United States is becoming more like Spain in its approach
to Cuba. Referencing the June 3 resolution to lift the
47-year-old suspension of Cuba in the OAS, MFA State
Secretary for Latin America Juan Pablo de Laiglesia commented
June 4, "We think it is an important step for the
strengthening of the inter-American system, and to overcome
situations that took place under circumstances that are not
the current ones." Before the Senate Commission for Latin
American Affairs on June 9, FM Moratinos opined that the U.S.
decision to "accept Cuba" (at the OAS) was in line with what
Spain had always proposed: continued dialogue with Cuban
authorities amid mutual respect. Moratinos commented, "We do
not follow Washington. When the U.S. has the same policy as
the GOS, we congratulate ourselves, we support it, and we go
with it. But we don't subordinate ourselves, as the previous
(PP) government did on an issue as important to Spain as
Cuba." Moratinos outlined GOS policy on Cuba, claiming Spain
pressed Cuba to release 12 political prisoners, engage with
the international community, and open a dialogue with the
U.S. on immigration and humanitarian aid issues.

7. (SBU) Secretary of State for IberoAmerican Affairs de
Laiglesia testified June 23 before the congressional
Commission of Foreign Affairs that Spain believed the rest of
the EU, Latin American governments, and the Obama
Administration supported GOS policy of "critical dialogue"
with Cuba. De Laiglesia stated the GOS preferred not to
judge the decisions made by Latin American countries and
favored a policy of respect over a judgmental "policy of
declarations." De Laiglesia told the commission there were
noticeable reforms under Raul Castro, including a reduction
in the number of political prisoners and the absence of new
harassment measures against the Cuban opposition, directly
attributable to the GOS decision to re-open communications
with Cuba in 2004.

8. (C) Coupled with Moratinos's subsequent meeting in Madrid
with Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva, spouses of Gerardo
Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, two of five Cuban citizens
sentenced in 2001 in the United States for serving as
unregistered agents of the Cuban government, Moratinos's
refusal to engage with civil society while in Havana drew
harsh criticism from human rights activists. A group of 37
Cuban political prisoners released a statement October 26
criticizing Spain's policy toward Cuba, stating that FM
Moratinos showed "disrespect" to the peaceful opposition by
ignoring the group's request for a meeting during his recent
visit. The group thanked the GOS for its efforts resulting
in the release of political prisoner Nelson Aguiar, but
warned that the gesture should not be taken as a "general
willingness for change in general by the Cuban government,
and should not merit changes in the Spanish and EU policy
toward Cuba." By way of response, Moratinos pointed out that
other prisoners have thanked the Spanish Ambassador to Cuba
for GOS efforts and that the GOS is working for improvement
on the island. Asked October 18 why he did not meet with
Cuban dissidents, Moratinos responded that he did not come to
meet with any one sector of society in particular but to
strengthen bilateral relations, and he said that no one is
his delegation would be meeting with the opposition or
dissidents. MFA DG for IberoAmerican Affairs Sanchez Alonso
told POLOFF October 29 that Moratinos knew of Cuban plans to
liberate prisoners and did not want to risk their release
over contentious discussions with the Cubans about where he
could go and who he could see. The GOS did not make a formal
offer to meet with dissidents, but Sanchez Alonso asserted
they had unlimited access to the Spanish mission in Havana.
He said Spain's political counselor talked to them (see also
ref E), saying perhaps that was not the level of interaction
the dissidents (none of whom had been elected and who did not
represent all of Cuban society) would have preferred.

9. (C) Have there been any high-level diplomatic visits
between Cuba and the host country in the past six months?

--Representatives of Spanish autonomous community and local
governments visit Cuba often and maintain contacts and
collaborative relationships. The Cuban government encourages
and facilitates relations with the autonomous communities,
especially with the Basque Country and to a lesser extent
with Andalucia, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha, and the Canary
Islands. Catalonian Vice President Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira,
of the independence-minded Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)
party, visited Havana July 5-7 on a cultural trip entitled
"The Catalan Footprint in the Caribbean," part of a longer
trip in which Carod-Rovira visited Catalan communities in the
Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Carod made public
comments to Cubans of Catalonian decent, visited the Cuban
Parliament and met the President of the Parliament, Ricardo

-- Elena Valenciano, PSOE International Relations Secretary,
announced in August she would lead a delegation to Cuba in
October to assess the situation, and reach out to new
interlocutors in the Cuban government and the Cuban Communist
Party. Valenciano made no promises to meet with dissidents.
Secretary of State de Laiglesia stressed to the Charge in
September that Valenciano would be traveling in a political
capacity and representing the Socialist Party, not/not the
GOS (ref C). NOTE: The trip never took place, however.

-- FM Moratinos earned the Wall Street Journal title of
"Castro,s Man in Europe" upon visiting the island October
17-19. The trip had as stated objectives to reinforce
political dialogue, promote bilateral dialogue, to inform
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and other officials
about Spain,s EU Presidency objectives, and to reciprocate
the October 2008 visit to Madrid of former Cuban Foreign
Minister Perez Roque. Moratinos saw his Cuban counterpart,
Bruno Rodriguez, for lunch October 19. Following a
three-hour meeting with Raul Castro on October 19 Half of
which was devoted to human rights, according to MFA staff),
Moratinos told the press that Spanish-Cuban bilateral
relations were "normalized" and that as of one Spain's
priorities during its EU Presidency, Madrid would seek the
elimination of the EU's Common Position and its replacement
with a mechanism that seeks to condition the normalization of
relations between Member States and Cuba on the latter's
democratization efforts and respect for human rights, in
particular civil and political rights. Moratinos declared
that the international community should not seek a political
gesture from Havana and added it should be the Cubans who
decide how to carry out their political affairs. According
to press reports subsequent to both Moratinos's visit and
Zapatero's October 13 meeting at the White House, President
Obama asked Spain to transmit a message to the Cuban
government: "Tell Raul that if he does not take any steps, I
will not be able to either." Spanish diplomatic sources told
leading daily El Pais that Obama said Moratinos should "tell
the Cuban authorities we understand that change can't happen
overnight, but down the road, when we look back at this time,
it should be clear that now is when those changes began."

10. (C) What is the nature of investments (and names, if
known) that host country businesses have in Cuba?

Spain is believed to be the largest foreign investor in
Cuba, though Spanish companies avoid publishing precise data
out of concern that such information will be used to further
U.S. enforcement actions under the Libertad Act. Spain's
Ministry of Industry, Tourism, and Trade (MITYC) reported
that there was no significant investment in Cuba in 2008 even
though Spain continues to be among the foreign countries with
the largest economic presence in Cuba.

Tourism is one of the main industries in Cuba and Spain
has a dominant position in the sector. Most of the 54 4-and
5-star hotels managed by foreign firms are owned by Spanish
companies. Tobacco is another leading Spanish investment in
Cuba. Imperial Tobacco, which acquired Altadis (formerly
Tabacalera, S.A.) in January 2008, has a 50 percent interest
in Corporacion Habanos, the exclusive worldwide distributor
of premium Cuban cigar brands such as Bohiba and Montecristo.
Cuba is also among Spain's largest markets Latin America,
with Spanish exports of 312.7 million euros in the first
eight months of 2009. During his October visit, Foreign
Minister Moratinos tried to secure payment of USD 300 million
owed by Cuba to 280 Spanish businesses but blocked in Cuban

Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica --
currently operating in several Latin American countries
including Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela --
expressed interest in entering the Cuban market at a
telecommunications conference in Santander on September 2.
President for Latin America Affairs Jose Maria Alvarez
Pallete said Telefonica would like to buy Telecom Italia's 27
per cent stake in state-owned Cuban operator Etesca. Alvarez
saw good prospects in Cuba, due to the low market penetration
in a population of 11 million.

11. (C) Are there any bilateral trade agreements or other
cooperative agreements between host country and Cuba?

There is a bilateral "Commission on Economic-Industrial
Cooperation" between Spain and Cuba that is intended to
promote bilateral trade and investment. The work of the
Commission has been suspended for several years due to
disputes over Cuba's non-payment of debt to Spanish entities.
Spain and Cuba have bilateral cooperative agreements on air
transportation, mutual customs assistance, promotion and
protection of investment, double taxation and tax evasion,
tourism, and scientific and technical cooperation. Spain
offered to restructure Cuba's debt of more than 1,500 euros
and provide more than 100 million euros in short-term credit
after the recent hurricanes.

12. (C) Are there any exchange programs between host country
and Cuba, including but not limited to: scholarships for host
country nationals to study in Cuba; Cuban-paid medical travel
for host country nationals; and Cuban doctors working in the
host country?

Post is not aware of any such programs between Spain
and Cuba. However, Spanish regional governments have
substantial assistance programs in Cuba. Such assistance is
channeled primarily through the Cuban government, and to a
lesser degree through multilateral aid organizations.

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