Mexico refuses to back Bush plan

Campaign News | Friday, 7 May 2004

President Fox draws line at interefence in Cuba's affairs

MEXICO CITY May 8 - Mexican President Vicente Fox put aside the diplomatic dispute with Cuba on May 7 and criticized plans by the Bush regime to intensify the blockade.

Bush announced on May 6 that he will reduce the flow of dollars to Cuba while stepping up propaganda broadcasts and support for opponents of the Cuban government.

"Mexico will take no part at all in this proposal which is against Cuban sovereignty and neither do we accept interference (in Cuba) by any other country," Fox said in a speech in the northern state of Sinaloa.

Mexico withdrew its ambassador from Havana on May 2 and sent the Cuban envoy home in the worst diplomatic crisis ever between the two countries.

The dispute is ostensibly over Mexico's support for a UN rebuke of Cuba's human rights record last month, although it has deeper roots.

Mexico was an ally of Cuba for decades but relations have deteriorated under Fox, who has swung Mexico closer to the United States since taking office in 2000.

Even though he is at odds with Castro, Fox said he opposed the US blockade in force against Cuba since 1960 because Mexico rejected countries interfering in each other's affairs on principle.

"The consistency of our vote down the years in the UN General Assembly against the economic embargo on Cuba testifies to that. Today I confirm that we will continue with that policy," he said.

Saying he wanted to "hasten the day that Cuba will be a free country," Bush announced he would tighten limits on visits to the island by American family members and deploy airplanes to prevent Cuba from jamming anti-Castro broadcasts.


Fox is under pressure at home for taking a tough line against Cuba, an ally when Mexico was ruled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, for decades.

Opposition deputies accused Fox's foreign and interior ministers in a congressional hearing on May 7 of surrendering to US interests.

"Say what you will, in the eyes of the world, Mexico's foreign policy has lost independence and its own stamp, especially in the issue of the relation with Cuba," said Carlos Jimenez, a deputy in Congress for the PRI.

The ministers said Mexico pulled its ambassador from Havana because it had been offended by a fiery May Day speech by Castro, as well as Cuba's alleged interference in Mexican domestic affairs.

The Fox administration is unhappy two leading members of the Cuban Communist Party held talks in Mexico last month with Mexican leftists at odds with Fox over a corruption scandal.

Opposition members said the scandal, in which a businessman is said to have offered bribes to an aide of Mexico City's popular left wing mayor, should never have been allowed to mushroom as widely as it has.

"It's truly incredible that a judicial issue, an internal issue, has gotten so out of hand that it has turned into an international conflict," said Sen. Jesus Ortega, of the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution. The scandal has damaged the mayor's presidential ambitions.

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Cuba's Foreign minister says the crisis has been invented

Cuba's relations with Mexico have reached what a top official in Havana called their worst point in a century.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque held a three-hour news conference on May 5th in which he accused Mexican officials of lies, insults, erratic behavior and diplomatic incompetence - while adding fire to a Mexican political corruption scandal.

"Cuba and Mexico are living their worst moment in more than 100 years of diplomacy," Perez Roque said.

Mexico's government left formal diplomatic relations - never broken between the two countries - barely alive when it announced Sunday it was recalling its ambassador and was expelling Cuba's ambassador, along with another senior diplomat at the embassy.

It complained about Cuban President Fidel Castro's May Day remarks - themselves a response a Mexican vote criticizing Cuba at the UN Human Rights Commission. It appeared to suggest the vote could have been a response to US pressure.

Distrust between the two has grown throughout the presidency of Mexico's Vicente Fox, who has stressed building ties with the United States.

Mexican officials also accused Cuba of meddling in their affairs by sending two Communist Party officials on diplomatic passports to meet with Mexican politicians and by issuing statements that appeared to endorse the opposition side in a political scandal.

Speaking at a three-hour news conference, Perez Roque said Mexican officials had invented the the spat with Cuba to "try to divert attention" from a scandal focused on businessman Carlos Ahumada, who fled to Cuba after he was shown on Mexican television broadcasts handing wads of cash to aides and supporters of Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador, a leading presidential hopeful for the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, claimed that officials in Fox's government and by other powerful figures in Mexico were conspiring against him.

Despite the payoffs to aides, Lopez Obrador's administration was starting to investigate Ahumada's companies for alleged fraud at the time.

Perez Roque said Ahumada told Cuban officials that he had made the tapes for protection and had agreed to hand them over to "high officials" after they promised him legal protection and financial aid.

Perez Roque repeatedly refused to reveal which officials Ahumada might have named.

After Cuba deported Ahumada to Mexico, where he is in jail, he alleged he had been pressured into false statements in Cuba. Perez Roque repeatedly denied that claim.

In a clear reference to Cuba, Fox on Wednesday denounced attempts to meddle in Mexican affairs, calling them "absurd provocations that only seek to destroy the close bonds of friendship and cooperation that for decades have united us with other peoples."

By Wednesday night, Mexico appeared to be trying to calm the crisis - grasping at Perez Roque's repeated vows of affection for the Mexican people and his promise of willingness to solve the problem.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Perez Roque had "made its posture more flexible and has decided to accept the hand we extended" in a letter he sent Perez Roque on Tuesday.

Statement by Cuban Ambassador

Jorge Bolaños Suárez

Mexico City, Monday, May 3, 2004

“Year of the 45th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution”

My first thoughts go out to those who have spontaneously gathered since last night in front of the entrance to our embassy to show their solidarity with Cuba, and for those who remain there, representing the Mexican people. They also go out to those thousands of Mexicans who sent letters or made phone calls, offering us messages of support at this time, which I receive, with profound gratitude, on behalf of the Cuban people and government; to the members of the Cultural Association of Cubans Resident in Mexico, who are making an honest contribution to the Mexican nation, thus also exalting their homeland; and finally, to the millions of Mexicans who, given the ties of solidarity and sisterhood with my people, are today thinking of Cuba.

As is known, in a press conference last night, May 2, 2004, Foreign Minister Mr. Luis Ernesto Derbez announced that the President of the United States of Mexico had decided to request that the Cuban government immediately withdraw its ambassador in Mexico within 48 hours.

During the same speech, it was also stated that the political advisor to this embassy, compañero Orlando Silva Fors was a persona non grata, and thus must leave Mexican territory immediately and irrevocably.

This morning, our political advisor left for Cuba on a Cubana Airlines flight.

For my part, I have received precise instructions from my government, and based on them, am preparing to return to Havana tomorrow, May 4.

Before leaving, I wish to categorically refute that compañeros José Antonio Arbesú, Pedro Miguel Lobaina and political advisor Orlando Silva Fors were engaged in “unacceptable activities (in Mexico...) outside of the institutional context and procedures established in existing agreements and treaties between the two countries.”

I affirm with all conviction that the first two legally traveled to Mexican territory with diplomatic passports; that they had a program of meetings with representatives from broad political sectors, always respecting the Constitution of the United States of Mexico, its laws and the regulations governing diplomatic conduct.

I can confirm that in no case did they take action against the Mexican people, its authorities or its official institutions. On this subject, my government will offer more information in due time.

There has also been an attempt to explain the government’s decision based on the statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the deportation to Mexico of citizen Carlos Ahumada Kurt, which constitutes a mere pretext with no foundation whatsoever.

Likewise, it has been attempted to justify the aforementioned measures based on the speech given by our president on May Day, which is totally absurd and untenable.

I wish to reiterate, on behalf of my country, that Mexican laws have not been violated, and that we have always acted with total respect for the noble and fraternal Mexican people, with whom we are united by indestructible ties, built on our common history, culture and aspirations.

Our embassy has remained working during these years in spite of the Mexican government’s position against Cuba in the Human Rights Commission in Geneva; despite the disrespectful treatment of the head of the Cuban State during the Monterrey Summit; in spite of the crisis unleashed by the irresponsible attitude of Jorge Castañeda, the former foreign minister, when he provoked Cubans into entering the Mexican Embassy in Havana in an attempt to emigrate to Miami.

The Cuban embassy will continue, as it has done to date, to promote the ties of friendship between our peoples; it will maintain its program of scholarships so that young Mexicans can study the specialties of medicine and sports in our country free of charge, as 400 students already are doing; it will continue to support the literacy project in different Mexican states that is already showing results, which will have a total of 150,000-plus Mexicans who have learned how to read and write by early December.

It will continue to promote trade, tourism, economic ties, academic and professorial exchange and, above all, it will continue to cultivate the deep ties of friendship and solidarity between the Cuban and Mexican peoples.

The Mexican people should know that they will always have, in my person and in that of compañero Orlando diplomats who are their friends. I take with me the sincere embrace of the Mexican men and women. I leave behind a team of diplomats who know how to respect and admire this beloved people.

Tomorrow I return to my homeland, accompanied by a sentiment of the dignity of my people, the brothers and sisters of the Mexican people. I go accompanied by the pride of having served the Cuban Revolution in this country that is so closely linked to its history, by the certainty that one day we will make real the dreams of an integrated and united Latin America that were fought for by Bolívar, Juárez and Martí.

Ever onward to victory!

May 3 (Prensa Latina) Cuba rejected statements Monday from the Mexican Foreign Ministry alleging it had interfered in the internal affairs of that country and announced it would give an appropriate reply in due time.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry pronouncement referred to what it called outrageous declarations, inspired by arrogance, crassness and lies. It further criticized the decision of President Vicente Fox to withdraw his ambassador in Havana and request the exit of the Cuban ambassador in Mexico City.

The note clarifies that the Cuban ambassador to Mexico, Jorge Bolanos, was only informed five minutes before these decisions, which it called another error on the part of the Mexican authorities.

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