Friday, November 30, 2007

Meeting with Secretary Trinidad Jiménez

Earlier this week, Spain's Secretary of State for Ibero-American Affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, visited Miami to speak with various representatives of the Cuban exile community. Among those who met with Jiménez were members of the Cuba Study Group, Cuban American National Foundation, Consenso Cubano, and the Cuban Liberty Council.

Phil Peters from the Cuban Triangle cites an article from IBLNews quoting Marcelino Miyares, president of the Cristian-Democratic Party of Cuba in Exile, describing the meeting as "cordial, open, and positive."

Diario Las Americas quotes Jiménez stating that Spain is "trying to influence internal developments [in Cuba] in an honest and logical way." Jiménez believes that some in Miami have "erroneous perceptions" about Spain's Cuba policy, and this error is due to the fact that "there's a debate with a heavy ideological burden that prevents treating calmly the complexity of the Cuban affair." Jiménez also acknowledges those in Miami that don't share the Spanish position on Cuba.

Over on the Babalu Blog, blogger Alberto De la Cruz dismisses the meeting with Jiménez as a "ludicrous attempt at reconciliation [which] is nothing more than empty words and obfuscation of Spain’s true goals: maximum profit regardless of the suffering of the Cuban people. Five hundred years of exploitation does not appear to be sufficient for the Spanish government."

De la Cruz points out that members of the intransigent Unidad Cubana were not invited to meet with Jiménez, and describes those who did attend as ones who "consider dialog... as a viable option in the quest for liberty in Cuba." This is false. Neither of the members who met with Jiménez belong to groups that support dialog with the Cuban government. Instead most of them have varying positions on some restrictions of the US embargo, with most supporting the main thrust of unilateral sanctions.

De la Cruz also seems to be ignorant of the fact that members of the Cuban Liberty Council (CLC) met with Jiménez, an exile group as intransigent as Unidad Cubana.

On Thursday morning on Radio Mambi, Ninoska Pérez Castellón, one of the founding members of the CLC got a call from fellow member Diego Suarez to talk about the meeting with Jiménez. Suarez was praised for attending the meeting and representing the hard-line. Suarez was also joined at the meeting by Luis Zuñiga Rey, also a member of CLC, who was also commended for making a powerful presentation to Sec. Jiménez. Suarez and Zuñiga belong to the directors list of the CLC (bottom two names).

Some may know Diego Suarez because he has appeared every once in a while on Spanish television to push the hard-line of a "total change" in Cuba. Suarez also happens to be a very successful businessman as CEO of Miami-based Inter-American Technologies Co. and Vanguard-Inter-American Transport Equipment Co. Ltd., Georgia-based Rome Plow Co. LP, Texas-based Reynolds International LP and Kansas-based Quinstar Equipment Co. LP. His companies manufacture large construction equipment and Suarez is "anxious to go back" to Cuba when "democracy is established."

Luis Zuñiga Rey is a far more controversial figure. He's considered a terrorist by the Cuban government ever since he was arrested in 1974 and charged with carrying weapons into Cuba. He was released from jail after 15 years when international efforts saved him from a 25-year sentence. He later joined the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) as an exile and was accused last year by Jose Antonio Llama of being part of a terrorist plan conspired by former members of CANF against Cuba in the late nineties. Nevertheless, Zuñiga is a well-respected leader of the Cuban-American political leadership having once met Pres. Bush at the White House.

According to the discussion on Radio Mambi, Suarez and Zuñiga made sure to tell the Spanish Secretary that they believe Spain is helping the Castro regime remain in power. Interestingly, they also brought up the names of dissidents like Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo and Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz. Gutierrez Menoyo, leader of the Cuban dissident group Cambio Cubano, was immediately dismissed as a dissident "who doesn't dissent." But, Elizardo Sánchez got the full treatment by Pérez Castellón and Suarez.

Recalling the meeting with Jiménez, Suarez described some parts as contentious. It seems that hard-liners from the CLC and Jiménez had differences over the legitimacy of some Cuban dissidents like Elizardo Sánchez, leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Its assumed that some dissidents like Sánchez or Oswaldo Payá (both of whom oppose US policy towards Cuba) are not legitimate dissenters in Cuba because their don't call for a complete overthrow of the government like some Cuban exile leaders in Miami wish. So, they must be discredited.

In 2003, Sánchez was accused of being a Cuban agent, with video evidence of him being awarded for service in 1998 by the Cuban government. The accusations were immediately dismissed by Sánchez as "another chapter in the dirty war" between the Cuban government and the dissidents, with the intent to further sow suspicions after the the recent crackdown on 75 arrested dissidents that March. After those arrests it was revealed that some dissident groups were infiltrated by Cuban spies (some as long as ten years), secret agents like Aleida de las Mercedes Godinez who told CBS News that "[t]he opposition will never flourish again — never!"

Nevertheless, the Cuban dissidents stood firm in solidarity with Sánchez and didn't believe the Cuban government and its offical Cuban journalists who revealed the video to the public. Oswaldo Payá, long time friend and dissident, called the accusations against Sánchez "lies and defamations" that "don't deserve analysis, not even a response." Jailed dissident Gisela Delgado Sablón said "to waste neurons on this would be fatal."

Still, members of the CLC found the time to again raise these allegations against Elizardo Sánchez in the meeting with Sec. Jiménez this week in another desperate attempt to smear dissidents who don't share the hard-line against Cuba. It's even more tragic being that its very likely most Cuban dissidents do not share the hard-line attitude towards the Cuban government like the exile leaders here in Miami.

It's also incredibly tragic that some Cuban dissidents have two enemies to face: the repressive Cuban regime and some organizations in the exile leadership from Miami. Cuban dissidents deserve our utmost respect for bravely standing up to the Cuban government, not unfair criticisms and hypocrisy.

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