"Working together for a free Cuba"



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 with Spain.

'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 Francisco Franco.

“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. influence.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18976925/