Latin American summit backs Cuba despite US concern
Campaign News | Sunday, 16 October 2005
Calls for blockade to be lifted and Posada extradited
SALAMANCA, Spain 16 Oct: - Leaders from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, ignoring U.S. concern, backed a strong call on Saturday for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba and for the suspected bomber of a Cuban airliner to be tried.
The 22-nation Ibero-American summit stood by the wording of the resolution despite an unusual public expression of concern by the U.S. embassy in Madrid over an earlier draft.
"We ask the government of the United States of America ... to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade that it maintains against Cuba," a final statement said.
Spain's opposition press pounced on the resolution as a diplomatic "own goal" for Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who irritated Washington soon after taking office last year by pulling Spanish troops from Iraq.
Some newspapers said the wording of the resolution, which spoke of a "blockade" rather than an embargo, was tougher than past statements, but Zapatero said it was similar to past U.N. resolutions and described his government's relations with Washington as "suitable, correct, fluid".
The leaders also approved a Cuban-backed resolution on terrorism in which they supported steps "to achieve the extradition or bring to justice the person responsible for the terrorist attack on a Cubana de Aviacion plane in October 1976 which killed 73 civilians."
The resolution is a reference to Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative who Venezuela wants extradited from the United States and put on trial over the bombing.
A U.S. judge has ruled that Posada, who has denied involvement in the attack, may not be deported to Cuba or Venezuela, saying he faced the threat of torture.
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, leading the Cuban delegation in the absence of veteran communist leader Fidel Castro, hailed the resolutions earlier this week as a victory for Cuban diplomacy.
The U.S. embassy in Madrid had earlier publicly announced its concern over the two resolutions favoring Cuba.
"It would be unfortunate if these texts were interpreted as a sign of support for the Castro dictatorship," an embassy spokesman said.
To smooth ruffled feathers, the U.S. embassy released a statement to Spanish news agencies on Saturday saying U.S.-Spanish relations continued to be solid.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, attending the summit, also voiced concern. "I hope it is not interpreted as a sign of tolerance of violation of human rights in Cuba," he told a news conference.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Castro ally and outspoken critic of the United States, praised the resolutions.
"I think it's a very important step that this Salamanca summit calls things by their name - calls bread bread and wine wine," he told reporters.
Ideological divisions over the resolutions were reflected in the streets of the historic city of Salamanca, where pro- and anti-Cuban marchers rallied.
Some 200 people, according to a police estimate, marched singing and chanting to demand an end to communist rule and protesting against Madrid's invitation to Castro.
"We think that Cuba's chair should stay empty until there are free elections in Cuba," said Cuban-born Georgina Chirino, a member of the Miami-based Federacion Sindical, who said her aunt died a political prisoner.
Later, hundreds of pro-Chavez and Castro protesters marched through Salamanca, waving pictures of the Cuban leader and iconic revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara.
The leaders agreed to set up a coordinating mechanism to speed the response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Stan that recently lashed Central America and to work together for orderly migration while respecting migrants' human rights.
The leaders threw their support behind schemes to forgive debt in return for investment in education and Zapatero said Spain was talking to six countries about such agreements.
Cuban success at Ibero-American summit
Salamanca, Spain, Oct 14 (Prensa Latina) The Spanish press described as a victory the approval of a special resolution condemning the US economic blockade of Cuba at the 15th Ibero-American Heads of State and Government Summit.
El Mundo daily offers an entire page to the issues, explaining the blockade?s details, the reach of its extraterritorial character and the issue of extraditing to Venezuela terrorist Posada Carriles, currently protected by the US government.
It clarifies that the text on the blockade is more extensive than in preceding summits, with language specifically directed to the George W. Bush"s administration and demands to immediately stop its recent measures.
Another important paper, the ABC, headlines its front page with the event, indicating this is the first time a summit changed the word "embargo" to blockade.
El Pais newspaper, the biggest in Spain, also refers to the resolutions.
Ibero-American summit backs Cuba against US
Salamanca 13 Oct: Foreign ministers from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries have expressed support for Cuba in its battles against the US.
"We ask the US government to fulfil 13 successive resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations to put an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade which it maintains against Cuba," the ministers said in a statement.
"We reaffirm once more in defence of the free exchange and transparent practice of international trade, that unilateral coercive measures which affect the welfare of people and obstruct integration processes are unacceptable," the ministers said.
The US embargo against Cuba, which aims to squeeze the island's economy and push out Cuban President Fidel Castro, is now in its fifth decade. Cuba claims the embargo has cost it 82 billion dollars.
The foreign ministers' statement was made at a meeting a day before the start of the 15th Iberoamerican Summit, to be attended by about 20 heads of government in the central Spanish city of Salamanca.
Castro, 79, had been due to attend the summit, but Spanish officials said late on Thursday that the Cuban government had informed them he would not be coming. No reason for the decision was given.
Castro's presence would have been likely to provoke protests by Cuban dissidents and human rights groups. In addition, organisers feared a meeting between Castro and Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez would have diverted media attention from what they hope will be a serious summit.
Separately, in a statement condemning terrorism, the foreign ministers said they "backed moves to obtain the extradition and bring to justice the person responsible for the terrorist attack on a Cubana Aviation plane in October 1976, which caused the death of 73 innocent civilians."
Luis Posada Carriles, a vehement anti-Castro Cuban militant, is wanted by a court in Venezuela. A naturalised Venezuelan and one-time CIA operative, Posada is accused of masterminding from Caracas a bombing in which a Cubana Airlines plane travelling from Barbados to Havana exploded in the air on October 6, 1976. He has denied involvement.
A Venezuelan military court tried and acquitted him of the bombing, but the decision was later overturned and a civilian court case convened. Posada then escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 before the civilian trial was completed and is now in a US detention centre in El Paso, Texas, after allegedly crossing into the US illegally from Mexico in March.