Rice criticizes Spain over Cuba
Madrid, June 01, 2007. - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
arrived in Spain for what is meant to be a fence-mending trip on Friday
but her first words were of reproach for its policy of engaging Cuba.
“Democratic states have an obligation to act democratically, meaning to
support opposition in Cuba, not to give the regime the idea that they
can transition from one dictatorship to another,” she told reporters on
her plane shortly before touching down in the Spanish capital.
Cuba an 'issue'
Rice is the highest-level U.S. official to visit here since Spain
withdrew troops from Iraq in 2004 following the election of Prime
Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, giving relations between Washington and
Madrid a chill.
“I expect that the issue of Cuba will continue to be an issue between
us, and it will continue to be one in which we will make our views
known. I am sure the Spanish want to make their views known,” said Rice,
who was to meet Zapatero.
The United States has a policy of isolating Cuba and its ailing
President Fidel Castro while Spain favors engagement.
Cuba and its former colonial power Spain held talks on human rights in
Havana this week but, in a joint statement, did not say whether they
discussed 59 dissidents in Cuban prisons.
Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos visited Havana last April and met
acting President Raul Castro, passing on a get-well note from Spain’s
King Juan Carlos to his brother Fidel.
Asked about Rice’s comments on Cuba, Zapatero was keen to play down any
differences earlier this week, saying it was “understandable and normal”
that two countries had varying points of view on some issues.
Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul in July last year
after emergency surgery and the United States has been strongly critical
of the move, calling for free elections and an end to the Castro era.
Europe expert Reginald Dale of the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, a think-tank in Washington, said the State
Department had been arguing hard with the White House for closer ties
'Not a forgive-and-forget type'
Spain had been also pushing for an official visit by Zapatero to the
United States but this had not been granted, he said. “Bush is not a
forgive-and-forget type,” he said.
The two nations cooperated on Afghanistan but there are differences on
Iraq, and Spain’s ties with Venezuela’s anti-U.S. President Hugo Chavez
has irked the Bush administration.
Rice’s first appointment on Friday was with King Juan Carlos, who she
described as a U.S. friend. She praised his role in thwarting an
attempted coup in 1981, just six years after the death of dictator
“He is obviously an important historic figure in the role that he plays
in allowing the transition of Spain from authoritarianism,” Rice said.
U.S.-Spanish disagreements on Cuba have a long history. In 1898, U.S.
forces landed on the island and ousted Spain, then Cuba’s colonial
ruler, leading to Cuban independence in 1902 and a period of U.S.