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Viewing cable 10HAVANA9, U.S.- CUBA CHILL EXAGGERATED, BUT OLD WAYS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10HAVANA9 2010-01-06 20:08 2010-12-16 21:09 SECRET US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXRO1987
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHUB #0009/01 0062020
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 062020Z JAN 10
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5071
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 000009 

NOFORN 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD 
STATE FOR DRL CNEWLING 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/20/2019 
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV SMIG CU
SUBJECT: U.S.- CUBA CHILL EXAGGERATED, BUT OLD WAYS 
THREATEN PROGRESS 

REF: A. REF A HAVANA 639 ("A SPLENDID LITTLE VISIT") 
B. B HAVANA 772 (CONSULAR VISIT TO JAILED AMCIT) 
C. C HAVANA 763 (CUBA PASSES UP ON REFORMS) 
D. D HAVANA 739 (STRIDENT PROTEST) 
E. E HAVANA 736 (HUMAN RIGHTS MARCHES TURN VIOLENT) 
F. F HAVANA 755 (CUBAN FEATHERS RUFFLED BY USCG 
RESCUE) 

HAVANA 00000009 001.2 OF 003 


Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Joaquin F. Monserrate for reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d). 

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. Over the course of the last month the 
tone coming out of Havana seems a regression to the hostile 
language that kept U.S. - Cuba relations on ice for much of 
the last 50 years. The U.S. press is playing it that way, 
and both U.S. and Cuban observers are publicly throwing their 
hands up in the air in frustration. The reality is far more 
complex, and possibly less pessimistic. The most vitriolic 
language was the result of Cuba's, and more specifically 
Fidel Castro's, sense of humiliation at being excluded from 
the negotiating table at Copenhagen. The GOC would like 
nothing more than to firewall its civil society from 
foreigners, but its grumblings over U.S. observance of Human 
Rights Day were par for the course. Much more threatening to 
the regime are our overtures to and complaints of 
mistreatment of bloggers, a group that frustrates and scares 
the GOC like no other. The arrest of an Amcit, publicly 
denounced by President Raul Castro, remains a wild card that 
could further complicate progress. The GOC remains 
interested in improving relations and extracting what 
benefits it can but harbors no unrealistic expectations about 
a radical shift in U.S. policy. That interest wanes and is 
subject to the whims of Cuba,s rulers. This gerontocracy 
would rather abandon improved relations if it feels its 
political authority undermined. END SUMMARY. 

HEATED WORDS OVER CLIMATE CHANGE 
-------------------------------- 

2. (S/NF) The language coming out of Havana after the Climate 
Summit was as incendiary as it has been over the last year 
and a half. Communist Party boss and former President Fidel 
Castro railed about the U.S. "deceit" and "arrogance" and his 
Foreign Minister, upon his return from Copenhagen, duly 
repeated the charges at a press conference (Septel). The 
atmosphere became so charged, that retired General Barry 
McCaffrey called off a 2010 visit to Cuba in disgust over the 
"shallow and vitriolic" language that "made the Cuban 
leadership appear non-serious, polemical amateurs." The head 
of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said that he had 
given up too, and did not expect "big changes in the near 
future." The international press was quick to declare that 
the U.S.-Cuba "honeymoon" was over. 

VERBAL WARMING A STAND-ALONE ISSUE 
---------------------------------- 

3. (S/NF) Other Cuban leaders and the official media, 
however, have refrained from regurgitating, as they often do, 
the vitriolic language of the elder Castro. Many 
interlocutors, both foreign and Cuban, believe that Castro's 
(and by extension his Foreign Minister's) words constitute a 
stand-alone tantrum, and are not necessarily reflective of 
the state of relations between Cuba and the U.S. The British 
and Danes, for instance, were targeted just as fiercely. 
Castro's topical obsessions are notorious, and climate change 
is certainly one of them (Septel). Adding insult to injury 
is the palpable sense of humiliation at seeing the Cuban 
Foreign Minister, and wannabe world leader and surrogate Hugo 
Chavez, excluded from the final negotiations (where Grenada, 
Mexico and Brazil took part). 

THE INFLUENCE OF THE CASTRO GERONTOCRACY 
---------------------------------------- 

4. (S/NF) The former President is widely blamed in the island 
for the regime's obstinate refusal to change its old ways. 

HAVANA 00000009 002.2 OF 003 


According to many of our contacts, the political and policy 
paralysis in Cuba is a reflection of the sway that Castro and 
his generation of "historicos" (including his brother and 
current President Raul) have over the GOC. According to a 
Spanish colleague, Fidel Castro's word is final on the fate 
of Cuba's political prisoners and the Spanish had a hard time 
overcoming Castro's reluctance to release an ailing 60-year 
old inmate last fall (Ref A). His aim, the Spaniard claims, 
is to seek the release of the five Cuban spies in U.S. jails. 
The GOC thus far has refrained publicly from linking the 
five Cuban spies to the release of an Amcit detained on 
December 5 (Ref B). 

EXPLAINING THE ARREST 
--------------------- 

5. (S/NF) President Raul Castro himself was the first Cuban 
official to have acknowledged the arrest. (The only other 
public statement by officials or in the official press was a 
January 6 remark about his treatment by National Assembly 
President Alarcon in response to questions from the press.) 
Theories about the arrest abound, from an attempt to force 
high-level attention from Washington a la North Korea, to a 
move to counter the blogger movement (see paragraph 7). 
However, at his National Assembly speech on December 20, 
President Castro linked the detention to U.S. democracy 
programs on the island, deriding the very notion of a Cuban 
"civil society" (Ref C). Whether that was Castro's intent or 
not, the arrest has chilled the atmosphere for democracy 
programs in Cuba, especially those that hinged on unfettered 
and hassle-free travel to the island. Thus, the arrest has 
already served the interests of the authoritarian ruling 
class. It is not clear how the GOC intends to exact more 
mileage from the arrest, but if theories about the elder 
Castro are accurate, he could throw a gigantic wrench in the 
relationship if he insists on holding the man as a bargaining 
chip. 

OBJECTIONS OVER HUMAN RIGHTS 
---------------------------- 

6. (S/NF) A third oft-cited example of a deteriorating 
climate was the GOC complaints about the diplomatic presence 
at the Human Rights Day marches where peaceful protesters 
were assaulted by state-organized mobs (Ref D, E). Although 
the GOC would prefer that the international community stay 
away from civil society engagement, and sometimes it tries to 
bully nations into silence, it has grown accustomed to the 
U.S. and other countries observing these events. It could 
hardly claim surprise when we did, and its "complaints" were 
delivered in a matter-of-fact manner that belied its 
purported ire. 

BLOGGER XXXXXXXXXXXX
---------------- 

7. (S/NF) The conventional wisdom in Havana is that GOC sees 
the bloggers as its most serious challenge, and one that it 
has trouble containing in the way that it has dealt with 
traditional opposition groups. The "old guard" dissidents 
mostly have been isolated from the rest of the island. The 
GOC doesn't pay much attention to their articles or 
manifestos because they have no island-wide resonance and 
limited international heft. For a while, ignoring the 
bloggers too seemed to work. But the bloggers' mushrooming 
international popularity and their ability to stay one 
tech-step ahead of the authorities are causing serious 
headaches in the regime. The attention that the United 
States bestowed on XXXXXXXXXXXX, first by 
publicly complaining when she was detained and roughed up and 
later by having the President respond to her questions, 
further fanned the fears that the blogger problem had gotten 
out of control. 

OPPORTUNITIES TO WORSEN RELATIONS NOT TAKEN 
------------------------------------------- 


HAVANA 00000009 003.2 OF 003 


8. (S/NF) Despite the challenges to the GOC,s authority, its 
economic mismanagement and its unwillingness to adapt with 
the times, the GOC remains confident and in control. A less 
hostile United States has helped allay real or imaginary 
fears that the regime will come under fire if it retreats 
from the dogmatic stance of years past. President Castro 
acknowledged in December that domestic change was needed, but 
asked for more time for consultations. And, despite his 
criticism of U.S. democracy programs, he again called for 
improved relations (Ref C). 

9. (S/NF) Moreover, thus far, Cuba has refrained from going 
on the warpath. Aside from President Castro's remarks, it 
has not turned the Amcit's arrest into an issue of public 
debate, or taken the elder Castro's hostile route. On at 
least two recent occasions, the GOC has passed up 
opportunities to heighten hostilities. In November and again 
this January, the GOC complained about U.S. policies without 
resorting to hyperbolic language. 

10. (S/NF) In December, the GOC complained about maritime and 
airspace incursions (Ref F). Interior Ministry officials 
were genuinely incensed at the Coast Guard rescuing of the 
American crew of a sailboat that ran aground on alleged Cuban 
waters, but in the weeks since the early December incident, 
cooperation in this area (perhaps, the most effective and 
closest of U.S.-Cuba engagement) has continued unaffected. 
Likewise, in January, protestations over new flight screening 
rules affecting all Cubans did not stop the GOC from granting 
access to legal teams from the U.S. to depose Cuban witnesses 
in a TIP case or from continuing to review a full agenda of 
meetings, including the Migration Talks in February. 

RESTRAINT LIKELY, BUT PROGRESS LIMITED 
-------------------------------------- 

11. (S/NF) The GOC has no reason to eschew the prospect of 
better relations in the current state of play. However, 
political control is paramount to the current regime, and it 
will not hesitate to shut the door if it feels its authority 
undermined. The key for the United States is to continue 
promoting reform and greater space for Cubans, while keeping 
the GOC engaged and interested in areas where it is of 
benefit to us. 
FARRAR