The Spanish presidency at the Council of the European Union ends this month, and before they leave they want one last chance to change the EU's "common position" towards Cuba. But, it won't be easy, especially when you still have South Florida's favorite Congressmen, Rep. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, ready to thwart any policy changes towards Cuba.
Of course, there are several factors that will result in any possible change to the EU's policy towards Cuba, some of which were outlined last June. But, the Spanish government is hoping that other European nations will take notice of recent events inside Cuba, namely the Cuban government's negotiations with the Catholic Church to alleviate the harsh conditions of a few political prisoners. Spain's minister of foreign affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, believes that the "common position" is not working and that increased dialogue between Cuba and European nations would yield better results to achieve changes inside Cuba. As an example, Moratinos highlights the decrease in the number of political prisoners since Spain's new policy of dialogue with Cuba. (In 2008, the release and exile of four Cuban political prisoners was attributed to talks between Cuban and Spanish diplomats.)
But, this past Saturday the debate over EU policy towards Cuba got a bit nasty.
The EU and the U.S. held their regular bi-annual meeting of the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue (TLD) over in Madrid. It was a three-day conference where European and American legislators could discuss important global issues and achieve the goals of "strengthening cooperation" (at least that's part of what the TLD mission entails). Miguel Angel Moratinos was present for Saturday's session on foreign policy which was titled "Reducing Tensions in Distinct Geographic Areas." One of those areas was Cuba, and tensions at the event increased.
Reports are not very clear, but during this meeting Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart made statements in opposition to changing EU policy towards Cuba. According to Lincoln, the statements were directed towards the EU representatives and not at Moratinos. But within the statements was a direct reference to Miguel Angel Moratinos and at some point Mario directs a question to Moratinos asking him a question related to Cuba.
At this point it seems that Moratinos interpreted the protest by the Daiz-Balarts as a personal attack and responded back loudly. Reports indicate that Moratinos described Mario as "ignorant" and later, after the session, continued to insult him. Lincoln's version of the story, which he also repeated for Radio Marti, says that Moratinos spoke with an "insolent and offensive tone." But, today on Radio Mambi, Lincoln told Ninoska Perez-Castellon that Moratinos was so angry he was shaking.
If I were Moratinos I would also have little patience with Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
When it comes to Cuba, both Diaz-Balarts are only capable of protest and not dialogue. It is very clear from Lincoln's version of the story that both Diaz-Balart brothers came only to protest Moratinos and not have a dialogue. Promoting dialogue and cooperation with the EU is the ultimate goal of the TLD meetings, and the Diaz-Balart brothers chose to ignore those ideals.
The offensive language by Moratinos towards U.S. Congressmen is unfortunate, but a typical response (familiar in Miami) when one meets an "intransigent" on Cuba policy. This incident should only remind us again that our political decorum should rise above insults and impatience.
On Thursday, Miguel Angel Moratinos is planning to meet with Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez. After that meeting Moratinos will join Spanish president Zapatero at the Vatican where both Spanish diplomats will meet with Pope Benedict XXVI to discuss the human rights situation in Cuba, among other topics. These talks are in preparation for next week's EU decisions to possibly change the "common position" towards Cuba.