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Viewing cable 04MADRID4827, LOCAL NGO PRESSURES SPAIN ON CUBA HUMAN RIGHTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04MADRID4827 2004-12-22 14:02 2010-12-17 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2014 
TAGS: PREL CU SP
SUBJECT: LOCAL NGO PRESSURES SPAIN ON CUBA HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Classified By: Political officer Ricardo Zuniga; reason 1.4 (D) 
 
1. (C) Summary.  On 12/21, Poloff met with Rafael Rubio, head 
of the Spanish NGO "Cuba en Transicion" (Cuba in Transition), 
a human rights organization dedicated to raising public 
awareness in Spain about human rights abuses in Cuba.  Rubio, 
who generally works with the Popular Party (PP) but has also 
sought to expand his links to the Socialist Party, said that 
his organization is pressing the GOS to take concrete 
measures in support of Cuban civil society, "since the only 
concrete measure they've taken so far is to exclude 
dissidents from national day events."  Rubio said that, 
despite public claims of a victory for Spanish policy in 
Brussels, the GOS has opened the door for NGOs such as his to 
lobby for higher-profile EU support for the Cuban opposition. 
 He has made little headway with Socialist Party leaders, 
some of whom cling to a romantic vision of the Cuban 
revolution, and is now focused on influencing the MFA.  Rubio 
said he is perplexed by the UK's support for easing EU 
measures against Cuba and asked about the importance of Cuba 
in GOS-USG relations.  Poloff responded that Cuba is an 
important issue at the highest levels of the USG and that 
Spain's change in tack towards the GOS over the last year had 
not helped bilateral ties.  Rubio's organization is small, 
but working with allied NGOs, it may manage to rein in 
Socialist desires to further ease Spanish and EU policy 
towards Cuba.  End Summary. 
 
//PREACHING TO THE UN-CONVERTED// 
 
2. (C) Cuba in Transition is a small, but well-connected NGO 
(www.cubaentransicion.com) that is unusual in that it has no 
Cuban exiles in its membership.  It receives a small USAID 
grant through the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba. 
Rubio said he has attempted to work through the Socialist 
Party (PSOE) before approaching the government.  His 
objective is to sensitize PSOE to the massive scale of Cuba's 
repression in an effort to eliminate a lingering sense of 
political affinity for Castro among some elements of the 
Socialist Party.  He has made little headway, primarily 
because the PSOE remains wary of publicly criticizing the 
Castro regime and because the Socialists have determined that 
so-called "moderate" dissidents Gutierrez Menoyo and Manuel 
XXXXXXXXXXXXX are the only dissidents worth listening to. 
Rubio said the "moderates'" message of working with the 
Castro regime to encourage gradual change was seductive to EU 
left wing parties such as the PSOE (NOTE: PSOE has brushed 
aside dissident suspicions that xxxxxxxxxxxx is in fact a 
Cuban Government agent. END NOTE.)  Rubio said he was taken 
aback to hear PSOE members criticize Project Varela leader 
Oswaldo Paya as "too conservative" and as "a tool of the 
Miami exile community," especially given Paya's well-known 
differences with Miami groups.  This echoes PSOE comments to 
a visiting National Democratic Institute representative that 
Paya's anti-abortion stance and good relations with former 
President Aznar had alienated the PSOE. 
 
3. (C) Rubio said he had inundated Spanish Ambassador to Cuba 
Carlos Saldivar with information regarding GOC abuses for 
many months.  He believed he had managed to at least get 
Saldivar, a former Spanish Communist Party member, to 
question his preconceptions about Castro.  However, Rubio 
said Saldivar "remains a Marxist in his basic world view" and 
may be fundamentally incapable of conducting an objective 
evaluation of conditions in Cuba. 
 
//MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION// 
 
4. (C) Having determined that the PSOE is not likely to veer 
from its cautious stance towards aiding the opposition, 
Rubio has gone directly to the Socialist Government.  He 
recently approached the MFA to encourage them to take 
specific steps to comply with Spain's claim that it intends 
to ramp up contact with the dissidents to offset their 
dis-invitation from EU national day events.  Specifically, 
Rubio is urging the GOS to: 
 
- Raise the public profile of the regular EU-Cuban opposition 
exchanges the GOS has pledged to activate in Havana. 
 
- Create public space in the Spanish Embassy in Havana for 
civil society, similar to the USINT Havana media center. 
 
- Distribute books and information materials to Cuban 
citizens, including both political and non-political 
literature. 
 
- Create an official Spanish "human rights officer" position 
in Havana to act as a POC for democracy activists and for 
human rights NGOs overseas. 
 
5. (C) Rubio said he had told MFA DG for Latin America Javier 
Sandomingo that the opposition could not accept having its 
relations with the EU downgraded, since this implied that 
Europe did not consider the activists to be legitimate 
political actors.  Rubio asked Sandomingo to support a human 
rights conference he is trying to organize in Madrid two days 
prior to the January 31 review/approval by EU foreign 
ministers of the COLAT experts recommendation to modify the 
EU restrictive measures.  The goal of the conference would be 
to provide concrete recommendations to the EU on how to 
structure assistance to Cuban civil society, based on the 
EU's experience supporting democracy activists in other 
countries. 
 
//INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT// 
 
6. (C) Rubio expressed his consternation that the UK had 
"turned its back" on Cuba's human rights activists, saying it 
was inconceivable to him that a country with the UK's 
tradition of support for human rights would have agreed to 
weaken EU measures against the GOC given the lack of progress 
in Cuba.  With respect to the U.S., he asked whether the Cuba 
issue was a genuinely important issue in bilateral relations 
with Spain.  Poloff replied that Cuba was a very important 
matter to the USG and that we were very skeptical regarding 
Spain's current approach.  While we have good working 
relations with the GOS on many issues, Cuba developments were 
not helping the bilateral relationship. 
 
//COMMENT// 
 
7. (C) Rubio's close association with the opposition PP 
complicates his efforts to influence the ruling Socialists. 
He is aware of this and focuses on basic human rights issues 
in order to avoid becoming ensnarled in the politics 
surrounding Spanish policy towards Cuba.  Cuba in Transition 
is a small organization with limited objectives, but its 
members are genuinely committed to the issues and are capable 
of keeping Cuba human rights in the public eye.  The best we 
may be able to hope for over the near term is that activists 
such as Rubio will manage to keep alive the domestic debate 
over Cuba policy, preventing the GOS from going too far in 
easing pressure on Castro. 
MANZANARES