Skip to comments.Cuba limits travel of U.S. diplomats - "He's talked to hundreds of people"
Posted on 03/17/2003 2:00:50 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON - The State Department is restricting the freedom of travel of Cuban diplomats in the United States, responding to curbs imposed by Havana on U.S. officials in Cuba.
State Department sources said they believe the Cuban government made the first move as a means of cutting back on travel by the chief U.S. diplomat in Havana, James Cason.
They said Cason has logged 9,975 kilometers (6,200 miles) in travels around the island since arriving at his post last summer.
The department officials said U.S. diplomats for the past several years have been free to travel in a 700-kilometer (434-mile) area encompassing the city of Havana and Havana Province. Any travel beyond that required notification but not prior approval of the Cuban government. The same rules applied to Cuban diplomats in Washington.
Last Monday, the U.S. officials said, Cuba informed the State Department that mere notification of travel was not enough, that Cuba would have to approve each trip beyond the free travel zone.
The officials, asking not to be identified, said that Washington imposed the same restriction on Cuban diplomats in Washington within 24 hours. The Cubans had been free to travel without approval to any point within the Washington Beltway. Permission also was granted to visit Dulles Airport in suburban Virginia and a Virginia shopping center beyond the Beltway.
The officials said the U.S. response to travel requests by Cuban diplomats would depend on how flexible the Cuban side is in acquiescing to American requests in Havana.
Attempts to reach the Cuban diplomatic mission here Friday night were unsuccessful.
The State Department officials were quite certain Cuba was uneasy about Cason's extensive travels.
"He's talked to hundreds of people," one official said.
Cason ran afoul of President Fidel Castro late last month. He showed up at a meeting of dissidents and spoke to a group of international reporters, telling them that "the Cuban government is afraid, afraid of freedom of conscience, afraid of freedom of expression, afraid of human rights."
Last week, Castro issued a sarcastic response, saying, "Actually, Cuba is so afraid that it will calmly take all the time needed to decide on its course of action regarding this bizarre official."
"Anyone can see that this is a shameless and defiant provocation," Castro said, apparently referring to Cason's decision to meet with the dissidents.
The State Department said it was protesting Castro's remarks, considering them to be derogatory.
Meanwhile, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Friday in Havana that despite the mistrust at the official level, increasing numbers of Americans, including Cuban-Americans, support normalized relations.
Speaking at a news conference, the foreign minister pointed to several recent polls to support his contention. He said the changing attitudes of Americans contrast sharply with Washington's hard-line policies.
Among Havana's current complaints with Washington is the treatment of five convicted Cuban spies held in American prisons. Cuba charges that the men are being hindered in efforts to prepare for an appeal because they are being held in solitary confinement.
Dan Dunne, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman, said he could not discuss specific inmate cases but contended, "Our inmates are housed in a manner that is commensurate to their security needs." He added that all are treated in a "humane, fair and consistent manner and are provided with a safe and secure living environment."
He did not discuss Cuban claims about the consequences of solitary confinement on the appeal process.
The five were convicted in Miami of trying to infiltrate U.S. military bases and Cuban exile groups in Florida. Their sentences range from 15 years to life.
Cuban authorities say the men were working to prevent Cuban exile groups from launching terrorist acts against their homeland.
U.S. lawmakers request public meeting in Cuba*** HAVANA - (AP) -- Eight American lawmakers working to change U.S. policies toward Cuba said Monday they will ask the communist government to let as many as 25 U.S. Congress members hold a public meeting with the Cuban people later this year. ''It would be a demonstration of American democracy,'' said U.S. Congressman William Delahunt, a Democrat.
Ideally, Delahunt said, the gathering -- commonly known in the United States as a ''town hall'' meeting -- would be broadcast live on Cuban television and radio across the island, just as former President Jimmy Carter's speech to the Cuban people was aired live last year. ''It is time to forget the rancor, the bitterness of the past,'' Delahunt told a news conference. He said it was time to ''have a civil and respectful discourse'' between the two nations.***
Cubans harass U.S. envoys passing out Mark Twain novels - economics 101 textbooks *** Cuban agents have increased harassment of U.S. diplomats in recent months in a campaign that includes house break-ins, vandalism and crude acts of intimidation, the State Department says in a memo warning U.S. foreign service officers of tough times if they are posted to the island. Similar acts of harassment are being reported by organizers of Project Varela, a recent petition drive calling for free speech and free elections in the single-party communist state, according to news reports from the island. The memo obtained by The Washington Times lists three pages of "officially sanctioned provocation," including the "leaving of not so subtle messages behind, (including unwelcome calling cards like urine or feces)."***
***Cardinal's case for reform -There is no homeland without virtue - Only free men can build Cuba - I understand and share this - ....... It shouldn't be only the pastor's or the bishop's eyes that turn mercifully to the crowd; the leaders' eyes should, too. The time has come to go from the avenging State that demands sacrifices and settles accounts to the merciful State that is ready to lend a compassionate hand before it imposes controls and punishes infractions.***
EU Opens New Office in Cuba [Full Text] HAVANA - The European Union opened a new office in Cuba on Monday in an attempt to deepen relations with the communist island. The 15-member EU is Cuba's largest trade partner, accounting for 80 percent of Cuba's imports in 2001. "We are opening a new relationship," EU Development Commissioner Poul Nielson said in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Havana.
Nielson, here on a four-day visit, said that in Cuba the EU planned to put into practice a wide range of projects, from social programs to mordernizing the economy. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, who met with Nielson, said he hoped the EU mission would usher in "a new era based on respectful dialogue." Perez Roque expressed thanks for the EU's consistent opposition to the U.S. trade embargo against the island.
Cuba has applied to join the EU's Cotonou Agreement, which offers trade advantages and economic help to 78 developing nations. EU officials have said it is unclear if the governments would approve the deal. Britain, Sweden and others are expected to press Havana on human rights before approving Cuba's membership. [End]
CASTRO stocks CHAVEZ'S state-run stores ***As the protesters gathered, Chavez told a meeting of supporters in a Caracas theater that Venezuela had received donations of sugar and beans from communist Cuba to help his government fight food shortages caused by the recent strike. Chavez thanked his political ally and friend, Cuban President Fidel Castro, for the cargoes of 10,000 tonnes of sugar and 5,000 tonnes of black beans. He said these were being sold cheaply to the poor in the government's food program. "The Cubans gave up 10 million kilos (10,000 tonnes) of sugar from their own reserves ... they didn't want to accept payment, they said we could pay for them whenever we could," the president said. Cuba receives oil from Venezuela on preferential terms under a bilateral energy deal.
Chavez's opponents, who include private business leaders, union bosses and dissident military officers, accuse him of ruining the economy with his anti-capitalist rhetoric and left-wing, statist economic policies. They say he is trying to recreate Cuban-style communism in Venezuela. The president condemns his opponents as a rich, resentful "oligarchy" opposed to his self-styled "revolution."
Chavez announced the creation of a state-run network of shops which would sell cheap food to the poor. The idea appeared to be a replica of a similar system existing in Cuba. ***
Cuba "will not allow (Chanet) to carry out her mandate," Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Friday.
He clarified, however, that the refusal to authorize the visit should not be understood as anything personal against the special representative herself or against UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, who appointed her.
Pérez Roque underlined that his country viewed the designation of a special human rights representative to visit Cuba as invalid, as it forms part of a UN Commission on Human Rights resolution that it deems illegitimate.
The decision to name a special representative was part of a resolution condemning Cuba, approved in April 2002 in the Commission by a vote of 23 to 21, with nine abstentions. The initiative was presented by Peru and Uruguay and backed by several other Latin American nations as well as Canada.
The text urged Havana to guarantee civil and political rights, and endorsed the designation of a special representative by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit Cuba.
The Commission has passed resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Cuba every year since 1990, with the exception of 1998. Last year's resolution was the first to be introduced by Latin American countries.
The condemnation of Cuba's human rights situation triggered a diplomatic row between Cuba and Uruguay, which ended with the rupture of relations between the two countries.
The Cuban government complains that the resolutions are "fabricated by the United States with the basic objective of justifying its (four-decade) blockade and aggression against the Cuban people," said Pérez Roque.
"Cuba has rejected, and will continue to reject, that anti-Cuban exercise," for which it holds the U.S. government and the "Cuban mafia in Miami"--an allusion to the vociferously anti-Castro Cuban exile community in that U.S. city--responsible, the foreign minister said in a news briefing. ***
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