Bush administration calls Raul 'dictator in waiting'

Campaign News | Tuesday, 5 December 2006

US rejects Cuban offer to talk

WASHINGTON - The State Department on Monday rejected an offer of talks with Raul Castro, Cuba's acting president, saying it saw no point in a dialogue with what it called the Caribbean island's "dictator-in-waiting."

"The dialogue that should be taking place is not between Raul Castro and any group outside or any country outside of Cuba. It's the regime, with the Cuban people, talking about a transition to a democratic form of governance in that country," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

The offer of talks, made on Saturday, was the most direct overture to the United States by the designated successor to Fidel Castro, who gave power to his brother temporarily after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in late July.

At a military parade on Saturday, Raul Castro railed at the Bush administration and condemned the Iraq war but added: "We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba."

Asked if a dialogue might hasten Cuba's transition to democracy, McCormack said: "I don't see how. I don't see how that really furthers the cause of democracy in that country where you have dialogue with a dictator-in-waiting who wants to continue the form of governance that has really kept down the Cuban people for all these decades."


“Democratic opening” before any dialogue

Washington 4 Dec: The United States has rebuffed Cuba's acting President Raul Castro's offer of talks to resolve their differences.

A White House official said that a democratic opening of the Cuban regime is "indispensable" before any deepening of relations with Havana.

The statement came in reply to the conciliating speech by Cuban interim president and Defense minister Raul Castro who called on Washington to the “negotiations table”.

“The dialogue must be between the Cuban regime and the Cuban people on the democratic future of the island. We’ve said it before: any deepening of our engagement with Cuba depends on this dialogue and the willingness of the Cuban regime to adopt concrete measures towards a political opening and a transition to democracy”, said Sunday Janelle Hironimus from the White House spokesperson office.

On Saturday during a massive celebration of Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday and the half century of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Raul Castro expressed his "willingness to settle the long US-Cuba disagreement at the negotiating table".

Raul Castro took on Fidel’s responsibilities last July 31 when his brother underwent intestinal surgery for an illness that remains a state secret in Cuba.

Shortly thereafter Fidel gave a proclamation that implied he would attend this delayed birthday celebration December 2, --since his real birthday was August 13--, but following on “doctors’ orders” did not appear although he sent a message.

When asked if the statement meant a rejection of the dialogue offer, the White House spokesperson insisted that the State Department policy has been very clear and that “it’s the government of Cuba that must make changes”.

However Raul Castro’s speech could be indicating a desire to ease the traditionally strained tensions with Washington. The timing and the mention of the negotiating table suggests some growing autonomy on the part of Raul Castro according to analysts.

Julia Sweig, director of the Latinamerican program at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington D.C. believes that while Cuban life has not been disrupted by Castro’s illness the succession has been smooth.

“Cubans have been planning it for years”, said Sweig. “The people running the country today have been training with Fidel. Now they are managing the country without him”.


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