Cablegate: Canadian Relations with Cuba

DE RUEHOT #0845/01 3292055
R 252055Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Canadian Relations with Cuba

1. (SBU) Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(DFAIT) interlocutors tell us that Canada continues to promote the
advancement of democracy, good governance, and human rights in
Cuba. Canada shares the U.S. goals of promoting democracy and
human rights in Cuba, while maintaining its self-described policy
of "principled engagement" with both the Cuban government and
dissident elements. The GOC believes its approach allows it to have
a positive impact on human rights and democracy in Cuba. Canada
maintains a diplomatic presence in Havana and conducts aid programs
worth about C$10 million/year.

2. (SBU) DFAIT Officials said that Canada has engaged and
intervened on behalf of human rights and the advancement of
democratization in Cuba a number of times over the past six months.
According to DFAIT:

-- Canadian and Cuban officials meet regularly to discuss the harsh
treatment of dissidents. Conversations were reportedly "firm and
frank." DFAIT officials said that meeting with dissidents is a
normal part of Canadian diplomatic work in Cuba, with everyone from
the ambassador downward engaging in human right outreach. DFAIT
contacts assert that "Ambassador Juneau and other Embassy staff
meet regularly with dissidents, journalists, economists" and that
"the Ambassador also discusses human rights in his meetings with
the Cuban government." DFAIT contacts pointed to a Canadian
embassy presence on the scene monitoring of "the siege of the house
of dissident Vladimiro Roca" by a "Cuban government associated
crowd" as typical of their on-going and continuous human rights
outreach. DFAIT contacts did not have information on the status of
the journalists and economists (independent versus
government-affiliated) with whom embassy officers meet regularly.

-- The Canadian Embassy in Havana had been scheduled to open its
eighth Canadian Studies Center in Cuba in July, but did not do so
for budgetary reasons. These centers, funded by Canada and run by
the Cuban Ministry of Education, reportedly inform the general
populace about life in a democratic country with a market-based
economy. The Canadian Government also regularly sends speakers to
these venues, as well as funds economics professors teaching modern
economic theory at the University of Havana.

-- the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), a Canadian
government-funded think tank, runs a series of programs (in
Canada) on Cuba that focus on support for dissidents and
democratization. FOCAL documents all Cuban government actions
against dissidents, supports an active dialogue on planning for the
post-Castro area, and assists civil society programs on human
rights and democracy.

3. (SBU) According to DFAIT officials, high-level diplomatic visits
between Cuba and Canada over the past six months have included a
visit to Cuba by the Canadian Minister of State for the Americas
Peter Kent. The Government of Cuba cancelled his previous visit,
planned for mid-May, after Kent told reporters that he aimed to use
his scheduled meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro to raise
democratic reform and human rights. DFAIT contacts say the Cuban
government had also taken offense at that time to strong pro-human
rights statements by Prime Minister Harper.

4. (SBU) Kent visited Havana November 12-14, meeting with Foreign
Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Trade and Foreign Investment Minister
Malmierca, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Dagoberto
Rodriguez, and the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Ortega. He did
not meet with dissidents because the Cuban government would not
have permitted his visit to go forward if he planned to do so,
according to DFAIT contacts. DFAIT contacts say Kent did engage in
lengthy discussions on human rights with all three of the senior
Cuban government officials as well as the Archbishop. DFAIT
contacts described the discussions as "good, substantive" ones,
covering the need for Cuba to release all political prisoners,
accede to a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and sign
on to the two primary UN human rights covenants.

OTTAWA 00000845 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) Minister Kent also met with representatives of Cuban
government-sanctioned civil society organizations, including the
Centro Felix Varela, Inter Press Service, and the Centro Nacional
de Educacion Sexual (the organization head by Raul Castro's
daughter Mariela).

6. (SBU) DFAIT interlocutors decline to provide us with information
on specific Canadian companies operating in Cuba or confirm open
source information about them. Media reports indicate that Canada
remains Cuba's third largest trade partner, with trade growing by
9.4% in 2008. Canadian companies operate in a variety of sectors of
the Cuban economy, including tourism, construction, agriculture,
bio-technology, and mining. According to Canadian Government
statistics, annual two-way trade between Cuba and Canada was C$1.66
billion in 2008. Canadian exports to Cuba in 2008 were worth
C$768,389,688. Canadian imports from Cuba amounted to
C$895,242,425. Canadian merchandise exports to Cuba rose 36.3% in
2008 to $768.1 million and included machinery, inorganic chemicals,
cereals, and vegetables. Imports from Cuba decreased 15.3% in 2008
to $895.2 million and included mineral ores, copper, tobacco,
beverages, fish and seafood. Tourism is Cuba's largest source of
foreign exchange and Canada is Cuba's largest source of tourists,
with 818,000 Canadians visiting in 2008, nearly 35 per cent of all
visitors to Cuba. Media reports indicate that leading Canadian
firms doing business with Cuba: Sherritt International, Pizza Nova,
Labatt. Sherritt is the largest foreign investor in Cuba, according
to press reports.

7. (SBU) Canada has no bilateral trade agreements with Cuba.
According to DFAIT, Canada and Cuba held exploratory talks on a
Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) in
February 2009. Canada is currently consulting with Canadian
investors in Cuba before deciding whether to go ahead with further
negotiations. In November 2009, Canada and Cuba concluded an
expanded air transport agreement. The new agreement provides for up
to five designated Canadian airlines (an increase from two) and
unlimited points of destination in Cuba, an increase from four
points previously available to scheduled carriers. On April 22,
2008, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and his Cuban
counterpart renewed an MOU on agricultural cooperation. This
involves Canadian technical assistance in various areas of Cuba's
agricultural sector, for example providing Canadian expertise to
train Cubans in livestock production practices and animal genetic
techniques, as well as the management of irrigation systems.

8. (U) Canada has no formal exchange programs specific to Cuba.
Canada has initiated academic exchanges, including scholarships for
Cuban students under the hemisphere-wide C$18-million Emerging
Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) announced by Prime Minister
Harper at the Summit of the Americas in April. In the first ELAP
competition, Canada awarded scholarships to 11 Cuban students for
study or research in Canada. Selected ELAP students will have the
opportunity to attend a Canadian government designed "Democracy
Study tour" in Ottawa to expose students to Canadian models of good
governance, including the rule of law, human rights, government
accountability, freedom of the press, and multiculturalism. In
addition, many exchanges occur informally between organizations
such as high school sports teams and cultural groups.

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