Cablegate: Climate Change Provides Goc with Much Needed
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHUB #0011/01 0071848
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071848Z JAN 10
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5075
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
Thursday, 07 January 2010, 18:48
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 000011
STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR OES
EO 12958 DECL: 01/06/2020
TAGS SENV, PGOV, ECON, PREL, CU
SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE PROVIDES GOC WITH MUCH NEEDED
REF: A. HAVANA 168 (“CUBA WEIGHS IN ON CAPITALISTS CRISIS”) B. HAVANA 763 (NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SESSION) C. HAVANA 736 (“HUMAN RIGHTS DAY TURNS VIOLENT”)
HAVANA 00000011 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Principal Officer Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: The Government of Cuba (GOC) used the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to distract attention from problems within Cuba and ferociously vent against the United States and, in particular, President Obama. While some elements within the GOC are legitimately concerned about the environment, the harsh and well orchestrated response was pure political posturing. Like the world financial crisis before it (ref A), climate change provides a perfect platform for the GOC to join its ALBA friends to decry capitalism and blame the West for all of the world’s ills. At the heart of Cuba’s complaints was not the substance of the Copenhagen Accord but rather the process, in particular the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not involved in the negotiations. Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba’s mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC are actually serious about climate change. END SUMMARY.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL BATTLE IN HUMAN HISTORY
2. (SBU) Communist Party leader and former President Fidel Castro has mentioned or focused on the Copenhagen Conference and the role of the United States in nearly every one of his “Reflection” articles since September 2009. Previously, Fidel had only sporadically written on climate change, although he has been obsessed with President Obama since the 2008 elections. Fidel began to hint that the Copenhagen Summit would fail after an ALBA Summit held in Bolivia in mid-October and by early November, he was openly predicting failure. In a December 14 message to Venezuelan President Chavez following an ALBA summit held in Havana, Fidel wrote that Copenhagen represented “the most important political battle of human history.” On December 17, Fidel quoted extensively from speeches by Chavez and Bolivian President Morales at the conference while criticizing a planned meeting between President Obama and twenty-plus countries scheduled for the following day.
3. (SBU) Following the conference, Fidel wrote three straight Reflections devoted to attacking President Obama’s participation in Copenhagen. Fidel called President Obama’s conference remarks “deceitful, demagogic and ambiguous.” In a January 3 Reflection, Fidel claimed “the yanki president, Barack Obama, and a group of the richest states on the planet, resolved to dismantle the binding commitments of Kyoto.” This is in sharp contrast to his mid-September Reflection that one of President Obama’s two positive features was his concern for climate change (concern for health care was the other).
FOREIGN MINISTER ACTS OUT FIDEL’S REFLECTIONS
4. (SBU) Fidel wrote on December 19, as if he were still in charge of the country, that Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez would explain in a press conference upon his return from Copenhagen “the truth” of what happened. Like a good soldier, the otherwise calm FM Rodriguez blamed President Obama in a December 21 press conference for the “failure” of the climate conference. Rodriguez said “at the summit, there was only imperial, arrogant Obama, who does not listen, who imposes his positions and even threatens developing countries.” Rodriguez accused President Obama of maintaining the same position that had prevented the United States from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Rodriguez claimed President Obama knew he was lying when he said he was confident an agreement would be reached after the President departed but before the end of the conference. In addition to President Obama, Rodriguez also targeted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown for allegedly trying to blackmail countries into accepting
HAVANA 00000011 002.2 OF 003
the Copenhagen Accord. This was only his fourth press conference since becoming Foreign Minister following one on the U.S. embargo in September 2009, the situation in Honduras in June, and a meeting with EU commissioner Luis Michel in March of that same year.
WHY SO ANGRY?
5. (SBU) At the heart of Cuba’s complaints was not the substance of the Copenhagen Accord but rather the process, in particular the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not involved in the negotiations. The GOC has reported hourly details of how the events unfolded from President Obama’s arrival and departure to the eventual departure of the Cuban delegation, highlighting Obama’s short visit and meetings with “selected” countries. Rodriguez labeled the conference an “antidemocratic, exclusionary, arbitrary farce.” The GOC detailed the efforts of presidents Chavez and Morales to defend ALBA’s position and not accept any agreement that did not place all the responsibility on the developed nations, including repayment of a massive “climate debt” to developing nations.
IDEOLOGUES TRUMP SCIENTISTS
6. (C) A British diplomat told us that there are in fact moderates in the Cuban government that were interested in negotiating a productive agreement for the sake of the environment. Cuba’s position was apparently still up in the air until the ALBA summit in Havana when hardliners in the government took over the issue. Our contact told us, “the moderates had nothing to offer; the hardliners had Chavez and his oil.”
USEFUL DOMESTIC DISTRACTION
7. (SBU) Copenhagen also provided the international media with a distraction from the fruitless domestic meetings taking place at the same time within Cuba. In the midst of Fidel’s and Bruno’s outbursts, current President Raul Castro barely mentioned the conference in his December 20 speech to the National Assembly, and what he did say had a more diplomatic and reflective tone. Raul did not mention President Obama at any time in his speech. He lamented that the climate change conference ended without “tangible results”, but focused on what Cuba was doing to improve its water supply, to encourage the planting of trees, to teach new generations about nature, and to plan for coastal dangers and vulnerabilities for the years 2050-2100. The rest of the National Assembly was a significant disappointment with the only sound bites coming from Raul Castro’s own U.S. bashing regarding the December arrest of an Amcit and USINT efforts to monitor Human Rights Day activities (Ref B).
8. (C) Another common theme in Fidel’s Reflections, Foreign Minister Rodriguez’s press conference and the official press was the “brutality of the Danish police force against thousands of protesters and invitees,” all stated without any sense of irony. One western diplomat commented that the events in Copenhagen provided the perfect diversion from the GOC’s own repressive actions on Human Rights Day December 10 (Ref C).
CUBA’S SELF-INTEREST IN CLIMATE CHANGE
9. (C) Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba’s mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC are actually serious about climate change. An international journalist who follows environmental issues in Cuba told us that within the GOC there is much interest in climate change and a willingness to adapt and implement measures to combat the effects. This is partly due to Cuba’s vulnerability to rising temperatures and sea levels, most notably the potential flooding of an area with great biodiversity on the
HAVANA 00000011 003.2 OF 003
southwest coast (Zapata Swamp). She said the GOC includes environmental considerations in all national development plans. The British diplomat told us that a month before the Copenhagen conference a group of British experts visited Cuba and had “serious” discussions with Cuban officials about exploring options for alternative energy. He said the Cubans are desperate for diversifying energy sources, but lack the necessary funding and technology.
10. (SBU) The UN Development Program has a $25.5 million program in Cuba for 2008-2012 focused on climate change and sustainable energy. Projects include supporting conservation and biodiversity, implementing sustainable agriculture, and promoting the safe management of the bays in Havana and Cienfuegos. The GOC also constructively participates in regional UN projects, including hosting UN Environment Program workshops and providing (EU-funded) technical assistance to other Caribbean countries like Haiti.
11. (C) Several U.S. environmental groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, have close relationships with Cuban officials in the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. These NGOs provide some technical assistance, but tell us that they are not allowed to pursue their own projects but rather are limited to respond to GOC requests. In particular, any research or work related to Cuba’s oil refineries and nickel plants is strictly off limits. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the area around the nickel mines in Moa, Holguin consistently reports the sickest population in Cuba. One XXXXXXXXXXXX expert told us that oil production, refining, and electricity generation facilities in Cuba are generations behind U.S. and international environmental standards. XXXXXXXXXXXX countered in response to the GOC outbursts following Copenhagen that Cuban authorities were in no position to judge due to Cuba’s disastrous treatment of its land, water, air and biodiversity. Espinosa Chepe then used official Cuban statistics to support his claim.
12. (C) Climate change is Fidel Castro’s latest pet project in which poor, socialist countries are the victims and rich, capitalist countries are entirely to blame. Climate change provides Fidel the perfect opportunity to play statesman with little risk to his brother’s credibility at home. FM Rodriguez’ fiery remarks during his December 21 press conference were out of character and resembled past Fidel Castro speeches. Some element of the GOC may see climate change as a legitimate concern, but the view from the top is that of a political propaganda goldmine. FARRAR