Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WikieLeaks Cable: 09HAVANA592

December 18, 2010

Viewing cable 09HAVANA592, GOC SIGNALS “READINESS TO MOVE FORWARD”


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09HAVANA592 2009-09-25 17:05 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXRO4752
PP RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHNG
RUEHNL RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHUB #0592/01 2681739
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251739Z SEP 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4792
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0093
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0050
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0159
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0027
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0006
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAORC/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PRO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 HAVANA 000592

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA
DEPT FOR USAID/LAC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/25/2019
TAGS: PREL CASC EAID ETTC ODIP OEXC OFDP PHSA PHUM
SNAR, AA
SUBJECT: GOC SIGNALS “READINESS TO MOVE FORWARD”

REF: A. A) HAVANA 511 (”USINT FOLLOW-UP ON MIGRATION
TALKS”)
¶B. B) HAVANA 512 (”BRITISH EMBASSY SEEKS TO BUILD
CIVIL SOCIETY”)
¶C. C) HAVANA 437 (”GOC RESPONDS TO TIP DESIGNATION”)

Classified By: Political Counselor Joaquin Monserrate for Reason 1.4(D)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Avowing a “readiness to move forward in our
relationship,” the Government of Cuba granted us
unprecedented access to its state institutions during the
visit of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bisa Williams
from September 16 to 22. To underscore the move, the GOC
also offered the Mission quarterly consular access to jailed
Cuban-Americans that we identified, and extended full
diplomatic protections and multiple-entry visas to USINT’s
Marine Security Guards and temporary duty personnel. The
country’s leading opposition figures told DAS Williams that
they were heartened by the increased lines of
government-to-government communications and encouraged the
United States to continue prying open these links. The key
to normalizing relations, DAS Williams told the Cubans, was
not to be found solely in the degree of bilateral engagement
between the United States and Cuba, but in the Cuban
Government,s efforts to engage its own people and to respond
to their wishes. The visit included DAS Williams,
participation in the United States - Cuba Direct Mail Talks
held in Havana on September 18 (Septel), and took place
during the much talked-about “Peace Without Borders” musical
concert held on September 20. END SUMMARY.

AN UNPRECEDENTED WEEK
——————–

¶2. (C) WHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Bisa Williams led the
U.S. delegation to the Direct Mail Talks with Cuba on
September 18. In the following four days, DAS Williams met
with officials from the Foreign Relations, Justice,
Agriculture, Health and Interior ministries, the Prosecutors’
Office, the University of Havana, and local officials in the
Province of Pinar del Rio. DAS Williams also held
roundtables with the leading figures from Cuba’s dissident
and blogger communities, and with resident EU ambassadors.
In addition, she was allowed to travel twice outside the
Havana Province perimeter, to visit the Latin American School
of Medicine and the areas hardest hit by hurricanes in 2008
in the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio.

“CONFIDENCE BUILDING” KEY TO MOVE FORWARD
——————————

¶3. (C) DAS Williams discussed the purpose and ramifications
of her visit and the Mail Talks during an extended meeting
with Vice Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez. They agreed
that further “confidence building” was essential, and
acknowledged the considerable work that lies ahead. When DAS
Williams brought up the treatment of prisoners in Cuban
jails, for instance, Rodriguez noted how dialogue on this
would be possible but only with countries with which there is
“sufficient confidence” and mutual respect. The same, he
said, applied to scholarships and lifting reciprocal travel
restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Cuba and Cuban diplomats in
Washington, to name just two areas.

¶4. (C) VM Rodriguez seemed optimistic that things were
moving in a positive direction. “We see a change in the
rhetoric,” he told Williams. “Even within the existing
diplomatic constraints, we see a way forward.” In granting

HAVANA 00000592 002 OF 006

almost all of DAS Williams’ requests for Government of Cuba
(GOC) meetings, “we meant to show our readiness to move
forward in our relationship,” he added.

RELAXING RESTRICTIONS ON USINT
—————————

¶5. (C) At the meeting, VM Rodriguez announced that the GOC
would grant the Mission, effective immediately, access to
eight Cuban-Americans serving prison terms here (REF A),
including those outside the confines of Havana Province, and
extend diplomatic protections to our short and long-term
temporary duty personnel, including granting them
multiple-entry visas (Note: The GOC,s abrupt decision in
2007 to stop issuing multiple-entry visas to the U.S. MSG
detachment has been a bilateral point of contention as well
as a serious morale and operational challenge for post . End
Note). That is as far as it goes for now, the VM said.
Acknowledging that the USG has already indicated readiness to
move from authorized to notified travel for Cuban diplomats
in Washington, Rodriguez said that more confidence-building
would be required before the GOC would be willing to lift
long-standing restrictions on travel by USINT personnel
outside Havana.

STILL WARY OF OUR HUMAN RIGHTS AGENDA
—————————-

¶6. (C) Although VM Rodriguez said that the domestic travel
restrictions had been placed in response to U.S. limits on
Cuban diplomats in Washington, he complained about our
emphasis on raising human rights wherever we go. “I would
note that when those trips took place, they were only used
for just one type of activity,” he said, in reference to
outreach to the island’s political opposition. “Sometimes it
seemed that the only purpose of the trip was to pursue that
type of meeting.” He went on to complain that “your policy
until now has been that civil society is only made up of one
type of people; Cuban civil society is much broader than
these small circles.”

¶7. (C) The Foreign Ministry repeatedly warned DAS Williams
about meeting with leading dissident “criminals,” and was
especially sensitive to the idea that international media
might portray such contact in a way that embarrasses the
regime. VM Rodriguez showed no flexibility on the two
specific human rights cases raised, requests for medical
leave for prisoner of conscience XXXXXXXXXXXX and an
exit permit for the wife of prisoner of conscience XXXXXXXXXXXX
to travel to Spain for medical treatment.

THE EU ON THE GROUND AND THE OPPOSITION
———————————————

¶8. (C) The Ambassadors of Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom,
Hungary, France and the EU charge, told DAS Williams at a
roundtable meeting that the access of their visitors to the
GOC was always conditioned on shunning the opposition. When
they learned that Williams would see opposition anyway, they
announced that they would protest the “double standard” and
would begin to demand similar leeway for their visitors.

¶9. (C) The meeting with the EU countries exposed the
divisions between those that place human rights at the top of
their agenda, like Sweden and the UK, and those that do not,
like Spain and France. Some in the latter camp, joined by
the EU representative at the meeting, dismissed the
dissidents in the same terms as the GOC, insisting that “they

HAVANA 00000592 003 OF 006

do not represent anyone.” The UK Ambassador told us that the
EU was so divided that they could not even agree upon a set
of specific human rights benchmarks. (REF B) “It’s not that
we’re not doing human rights,” the EU rep replied, “but we
want to trade and invest.” The UK Ambassador told us on the
side that potential visitors from countries interested in
meeting with civil society (e.g., UK, Hungary) are undercut
with the GOC by visits from EU countries who are not
interested (e.g., Spain, France). The EU group was uniformly
critical of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, yet they volunteered
that the embargo gave the USG leverage with the GOC which the
EU lacked.

OPTIMISM IN THE CUBAN CIVIL SOCIETY
———————–

¶10. (C) DAS Williams met separately with a broad range of
civil society activists, including dissidents, former
political prisoners, independent journalists and bloggers.
Although scathing in their assessment of the GOC’s intentions
towards the United States, they all strongly supported
continued government-to-government engagement and expressed
great appreciation for the opportunity to meet with a
visiting high-ranking U.S. official. “For the first time
Cuba has an administration in the U.S. which is dealing
intelligently and eschewing rhetoric,” XXXXXXXXXXXX
told us. They also urged patience.
“The process of change is afoot, I know it will be slow, but
the top is crumbling,” XXXXXXXXXXXX stated.

¶11. (C/NF) The bloggers, who partly out of self-preservation
do not want to be lumped in with the dissident community,
were equally optimistic about the course of events. “An
improvement in relations with the United States is absolutely
necessary for democracy to emerge here,” blogging pioneer and
Time magazine’s 100-most influential person XXXXXXXXXXXX
told DAS Williams in her modest apartment. “Restrictions
only hurt us,” she added. “Do you know how much more we
could do if we could use Pay Pal or purchase things on-line
with a credit card?”

POSSIBLE OPENING FOR ACADEMIC COOPERATION
—————————–

¶12. (C) In DAS Williams, meetings with Cuban officials, the
GOC criticized the USG,s “one-sided” approach to academic
cooperation. VM Rodriguez said that, as confidence builds,
the GOC would review whether to loosen its strict stance on
U.S.-sponsored scholarships. “The key is what kind of
relationship we have, it doesn’t make sense to do
scholarships now when relations are poor.” He noted, however,
that Cuba would prefer scholarships in the hard sciences, and
in the past the USG had offered only social science courses.

¶13. (C) Despite this, DAS Williams, meeting at the
University of Havana was positive, constructive, and frank,
with a focus on learning from past failures and exploring
avenues for future cooperation. The University was
represented by the Vice Rector for International Relations,
the Director of the Center for U.S. Studies, and other
faculty and staff. The Vice Rector noted approvingly that
this was the highest ranking U.S. visit ever to the
University, and hoped that this indicated a positive change
in posture towards academic cooperation. University
officials appeared open to DAS Williams, suggestion that
they invite USINT COM or other American speakers to the

HAVANA 00000592 004 OF 006

university to discuss topics of interest to students in an
academic, symposium-like setting where there could be real
give and take.

EXPLAINING THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
——————————-

¶14. (C) DAS Williams told officials that the USG was
concerned that Cuban students who had applied for the
USG-offered scholarships were now being subjected to
reprisals and discriminatory treatment at the university.
She noted that although the university may not have
sanctioned such treatment, we had credible reports of its
occurrence. Responding, University officials denied reports
of officially-sanctioned mistreatment of USG scholarship
applicants. They said that the reason the students were
prevented from accepting the scholarships stemmed from lack
of advanced coordination with the University. Noting that
the USG scholarship program was course credit-oriented and
was not compatible with the University,s course structure
which could not accommodate any lengthy absence during the
academic year, the Vice Rector suggested that in the future
we propose graduate-level research courses. University of
Havana officials were surprised when DAS Williams noted that
we had shared information with the Foreign Ministry regarding
the proposed educational exchanges well in advance, forcing
the a Foreign Ministry representative at the meeting to
explain that the GOC had decided unilaterally as a matter of
foreign policy that Cuban students would not be allowed to
participate in the program.

LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION
———————————————

¶15. (C) The GOC pushed hard for increased law enforcement
cooperation, especially in counternarcotics. The top drug
fighter at the Interior Ministry, Colonel Jorge Samper,
commented that bilateral cooperation was often one-sided, and
that the GOC would like to be able to work more closely with
the United States in sharing information about trafficking
patterns in the region. Foreign Ministry officials told us
that they would be submitting “next month at the latest” a
proposal to increase cooperation in counter-narcotics
trafficking, including money laundering. (Note: this is the
same proposal that the Foreign Ministry promised to deliver
the week after the Migration Talks in New York in July).

¶16. (C) The GOC also informed us that they had no objections
to the voluntary repatriation of Amcit fugitive Luis Armando
Pena Soltren who is wanted in the United States for hijacking
an aircraft from the United States to Cuba in 1968. The
GOC also received with obvious interest a request from the
U.S. Department of Justice that Cuba provide evidence and
witnesses in the case against XXXXXXXXXXXX, a request
we made to the Foreign Ministry by diplomatic note during the
visit.

CHALLENGING OUR TIPS, TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS LISTS
————————————-

¶17. (C) DAS Williams told Justice and Foreign ministry
officials that we were aware of the Cuban government,s
dissatisfaction with their ranking in the U.S. reports on
trafficking in persons and human rights. (REF C) She
encouraged the GOC to meet with USINT officials to provide
data relevant to both reports, stressing in particular that
the trafficking report required information on prosecutions
that we had been unable to verify. They bristled at the mere

HAVANA 00000592 005 OF 006

suggestion. “Nowhere in international law does it say that
the U.S. should or can prepare a report on Cuba,” the
Director of the International Cooperation Division of the
Justice Ministry stated. “With all due respect, we have no
obligation to report anywhere except to the international
bodies. When we get to the day of normalization, we could
perhaps get to a point where we can discuss these things.”

¶18. (C) On terrorism, the Cubans took a similar line. “What
right do you have to judge other countries?” VM Rodriguez
asked. “If we were to do our own list the U.S. would be
there because in the United States there are thousands of
Cubans who are truly terrorists.” However, on terrorism the
Cubans seemed slightly less reluctant to engage. DAS
Williams stressed that removal from the sponsors of
terrorism list would be possible if specific procedures were
followed and she encouraged VFM Rodriguez to meet with COM
Farrar to review the process. “You just told us to study how
to get off the list without telling us how,” Foreign
Ministry’s Director of the International Cooperation Josefina
Vidal pleaded, leaving the door open to further discussions
on this.

U.S. FUGITIVES
—————-

¶19. (C) DAS Williams took the opportunity to press the
Cubans on the over 100 fugitives believed to be resident in
Cuba. She told Interior and Foreign Ministry officials that
the issue would not go away and that we would continue to
seek their return. Noting that similar Cuban requests were
ignored in the early 1960s, Vidal quipped: “We have a long
list ourselves.”

MAKING AN IMPACT IN THE HURRICANE IMPACT ZONE
————————————–

¶20. (C) DAS Williams got a chance to visit the worst-hit
areas by hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, in Cuba’s
westernmost province of Pinar del Rio. Unlike in 2008, when
we were kept at arm’s length by the GOC, the regional
authorities received us warmly, giving us a detailed
presentation of the damage and rebuilding work. The
Venezuelans supplied roofing material — “they send us one
container after another, week after week,” Provincial
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us — and even building a model 38-home neighborhood of aluminum-walled, steamy homes. Stiff and unsure of our intentions at first, the Chairman and his entourage became progressively affable as the visit went on, even riding in the USINT van with our delegation to encourage us to visit more often.

THE MEDICAL SCHOOL
——————–

¶21. (C) Despite having repeatedly denied USINT permission to
visit the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) just outside
the limits of Havana Province, the GOC consented to DAS
Williams’ request. At ELAM, we met a half-dozen American
students who enrolled in the six-year program through the
U.S.-based Pastors for Peace program. They were enthusiastic
with ELAM’s focus on social work, and happy to see their
country’s representatives. They told us that they were
unaware that USINT had been kept from visiting them at ELAM.
The students had few complaints about the school, but at
least one urged for assistance in easing the process of
receiving funds from home. All of the students lamented that
their academic study in Cuba does not qualify them to defer

HAVANA 00000592 006 OF 006

payment of their undergraduate student loans as they would
have been able to if they had pursued medical training in the
U.S. (Note: USINT Consular section will follow-up with CA on
how to facilitate their ability to receive financial support
from their parents in the U.S. End Note.)

THE CONCERT
————-

¶22. (C) While the visit was taking place, another event
–the “Peace Without Borders” concert organized by Colombian
musician Juanes– dominated the news. Cubans of all stripes
read subtle messages everywhere, from the song selections to
the statements proffered from the stage. What was unique was
how universally praised the concert was here. Vice Foreign
Minister Rodriguez and XXXXXXXXXXXX both agreed that the
concert had turned a page in Cuban history. “The concert is
a beginning, it’s part of what are doing,” Rodriguez said.

COMMENT: TIME TO TAKE STOCK AND FOLLOW UP
—————————————

¶23. (C) It is hard to overstate just how markedly improved
were our dealings with the Cuban Government and GOC
institutions during the Mail Talks and subsequent meetings of
DAS Williams’ visit. Whether this presages a true
operational shift on the part of the GOC remains to be seen.
What is clear is that the GOC is willing to fine-tune its
adversarial stance if it sees it in its interest to do so.
This presents us with enormous opportunities to set and
influence the terms of our future exchanges (Septel). As we
did during the visit, we will continue to press the point
that the GOC engagement with the Cuban people will do more to
influence the bilateral relationship than its
government-to-government engagement. Nonetheless, there are
a number of action items from the various meetings that
provide opportunity for us to test the GOC,s willingness to
continue to make progress on issues of interest.

FARRAR

Link to a Spanish translation of the cable

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