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Viewing cable 05BRUSSELS1530, CUBA: EU COMMISSIONER MICHEL BOLSTERS CUBAN FONMIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BRUSSELS1530 2005-04-18 13:01 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Brussels
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRUSSELS 001530 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2015 
TAGS: PREL PHUM PINR EAID CU EUN USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: CUBA: EU COMMISSIONER MICHEL BOLSTERS CUBAN FONMIN 
 
REF: A. A) BRUSSELS 1389 
     B. B) BRUSSELS 1217 
     C. C) STATE 50857 
 
Classified By: USEU POLOFF TOOD HUIZINGA, FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
 1. (C) SUMMARY: According to his adviser on Cuba, European 
Commissioner for Development Louis Michel believes the EU 
must bolster Cuban FM Felipe Perez Roque as the best hope for 
improved EU-Cuba relations.  During his March 24-27 visit to 
the island (REFS B-C), Michel offered Perez Roque better 
relations with the EU, apparently implying that the EU wished 
to offset the U.S. embargo.  Michel reportedly was struck by 
the "frozen" world-view of the other Cuban officials he met, 
including Castro, who appeared to believe Cuba's 
relationships with Venezuela and China rendered closer 
relations with the EU unnecessary.  Michel's analysis of 
EU-Cuba relations seems unaffected by his meetings with the 
opposition.  He believes the U.S. embargo soured the 
Communist experiment on the island, and that "constructive 
engagement" with Cuba is the EU's only alternative.  His view 
has the upper hand in the EU, but continued Cuban 
intransigence could result in pressure to toughen EU policy 
by the time of the EU's June/July Cuba policy review.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
---------------------- 
A CONFIDENTIAL READOUT 
---------------------- 
 
2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX (STRICTLY PROTECT), who covers 
Cuba in the cabinet of European Commissioner for Development 
Louis Michel, called Poloff on April 14 for a "confidential" 
readout of Michel's March 24-27 visit to Cuba.  XXXXXXXXXXXX 
accompanied Michel to the island and attended all of his 
meetings except the encounter with Castro.  During his trip 
Michel met with Perez Roque, Vice President of the Council of 
State Carlos Lage, National Assembly President Ricardo 
Alarcon, Minister of Foreign Investment and Economic 
Cooperation Marta Lomas and, for three hours, with Fidel 
Castro.  In addition, Michel met Cardinal Jaime Ortega and 
Cuban opposition figures Oswaldo Paya, Marta Beatriz Roque, 
Vladimiro Roca and the Women in White, a group of wives and 
family members of imprisoned dissidents.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said he 
had offered the readout to assure Poloff that Michel fully 
shared the objective of democratic transition in Cuba and had 
reasons for his differences with the U.S. on tactics. 
 
--------------------------- 
PEREZ ROQUE: THE GREAT HOPE 
--------------------------- 
 
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX repeated often that Perez Roque was the only 
Cuban official Michel met with whom it was possible to have a 
give-and-take discussion.  Perez Roque appeared to be looking 
ahead to a post-Castro era, and thinking pragmatically about 
how to pursue Cuba's present and future interests.  In this 
context, he listened with interest to Michel's suggestion 
that Cuba join the Cotonou Agreement and thereby establish a 
comprehensive basis for closer political, trade and 
development-assistance relations with the EU.  (NOTE: The 
Cotonou Agreement is the framework for 
development-assistance, trade and political relations between 
the EU and the 79 members of the African, Caribbean and 
Pacific Group of States.  In exchange for a more favorable 
trade and aid relationship, Cotonou would commit Cuba to a 
regular political and human rights dialogue with the EU.  END 
NOTE.)  According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Michel told Perez Roque that 
a Cotonou-based relationship with the EU could act as a 
counterbalance to Cuba's isolation from the U.S.  He further 
suggested that, under Cotonou, the EU might be able to help 
the Cubans in sending medical doctors to countries in the 
region, as they are doing in Venezuela. 
 
------------------------------ 
PEREZ ROQUE NONCOMMITTAL TO EU 
------------------------------ 
 
4. (C) Perez Roque's response to the Cotonou offer was 
noncommittal.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Cuban FM's negotiating 
style could be described as "I'll tell you the time if you 
give me your watch."  In that spirit, Perez Roque repeatedly 
told Michel the prerequisite for closer EU-Cuba ties was the 
EU's dropping support for the U.S. CHR resolution on Cuba. 
Denying that Michel had ever advocated dropping support, 
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Michel's response was always that (1) 
Cuba must release its imprisoned dissidents; and (2) since 
the CHR resolution was purely procedural, the EU could not 
fail to support it.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel raised the 
possibility of Cuba's inviting UN High Commissioner for Human 
Rights Louise Arbour or her Cuba Representative Christine 
Chanet to visit the island, in order to signal Cuba's desire 
to work with the international community.  According to 
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Perez Roque said he would consider the idea but 
never followed up. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
MICHEL'S EFFUSIVENESS WAS FOR PEREZ ROQUE 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX said Michel was quite aware that trying to 
buttress Perez Roque was a risk.  No one could be sure 
whether he was acting in good faith in his contacts with the 
EU, or simply "the smartest" member of a completely 
intransigent regime.  Nonetheless, Michel felt that Perez 
Roque represented the EU's only hope of influencing Cuba 
toward reform and respect for human rights.  XXXXXXXXXXX said 
Michel's effusive public optimism about EU-Cuba relations 
after the visit was meant to bolster Perez Roque.  In 
reality, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, Michel came away sobered and 
distressed.  Perez Roque would have to come through soon, 
said XXXXXXXXXXXX, by freeing more dissidents or allowing the UN 
human rights visit, or Michel and the Spaniards would no 
longer be able to advocate full constructive engagement. 
When pressed on whether "soon" meant before the upcoming 
June/July review of EU Cuba policy, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, "we'll 
probably have to give him more time than that." 
 
---------------------------------- 
MICHEL: CASTRO, OTHERS, DELUSIONAL 
---------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX was at pains to contrast Perez Roque with 
the other Cuban officials they had met.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said 
Michel was struck by how "frozen" and delusional Cuban 
officials' view of the world was.  The meeting with Vice 
President of the Council of State Carlos Lage was emblematic 
of this, said XXXXXXXXXXXX.  Lage seemed truly to believe that 
all was well on the island, that time was on Cuba's side 
regarding the U.S. embargo, that the Cuban peso revaluation 
would make the economy strong and, above all, that Cuba's 
growing relations with Venezuela and China rendered closer 
relations with the EU unnecessary.  Although XXXXXXXXXXXX did 
not attend the meeting with Castro, Michel told him the 
three-hour encounter started with an almost surreal tour 
through a room Castro had showcasing Chinese products as if 
it were a museum exhibition.  Castro, too, seemed fixated on 
Venezuela and China.  Although the Alarcon meeting was less 
substantive, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Alarcon expressed views 
similar to Lage.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said Minister of Foreign 
Investment and Economic Cooperation Marta Lomas was the most 
wooden of all, sticking so close to her talking points that 
no exchange was possible. 
 
------------------------------------- 
MICHEL: EMBARGO FEEDS CUBAN DELUSIONS 
------------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed that a central element of the 
official Cubans' world-view was the U.S. embargo.  The Cuban 
David had weathered the American Goliath's embargo for forty 
years, proving the regime's strength and lending it moral 
legitimacy.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel felt vindicated in his 
opposition to the embargo, since he had now witnessed the 
role it played in Cuban officials' delusions.  XXXXXXXXXXXX 
added that Michel believed that Communism might have turned 
out well for Cuba if the embargo had not helped push the 
regime down the hard-line path.  This was yet another reason, 
XXXXXXXXXXXX said, to choose a Cuba policy of engagement rather 
than isolation. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
OPPOSITION: LITTLE EFFECT ON MICHEL'S VIEWS 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Michel's analysis of EU-Cuba relations seems 
unaffected by his meetings with the opposition and the 
Church.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said Michel had three separate meetings 
with dissidents, one with Oswaldo Paya, another with Marta 
Beatriz Roque and Vladimiro Roca, and a third with the Women 
in White.  XXXXXXXXXXXX said little of note was discussed during 
the Paya meeting, and that Roca was the only opposition 
figure who completely opposed the lifting of the EU measures. 
 Beatriz Roque, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, opposed it as well, but was 
willing to wait and see what the upshot would be.  The Women 
in White made a deep impression on Michel, according to 
XXXXXXXXXXXX, with their personal stories.  However, they did 
not discuss policy.  XXXXXXXXXXXX had little of substance to say 
about Michel's meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
MICHEL GOING TO MAT FOR FULL ENGAGEMENT 
--------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) COMMENT: Michel apparently will stop supporting full 
constructive engagement with Cuba only if Cuban intransigence 
-- and pressure from within the EU -- makes his position 
politically untenable.  He is also willing to sell the EU 
approach to the Cubans as a counterweight to the U.S. 
embargo.  Our sense is that this attitude, buttressed by 
Spanish support, is still carrying the day in the EU.  (NOTE: 
On April 15, Perez Roque called EU support for the CHR 
resolution on Cuba "pathetic;" a Commission spokeswoman's 
response was to say that the EU supported the resolution 
because it did not condemn the Cuban authorities.  END NOTE.) 
 As the June/July review of EU Cuba policy approaches, the 
commitment of anti-Castro member states such as the Czech 
Republic and Poland, and, in Brussels, of the center-right 
activists in the European Parliament (REF A) will be key.  If 
the Castro regime remains as uncompromising as it has been in 
its reaction to the CHR resolution, they might have a window 
of opportunity to modify the current policy of full 
engagement.  END COMMENT. 
 
SCHNABEL