Ambassador defends `two-track policy' to exile leaders in Miami
By ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
Herald Staff Writer
Seeking to clarify ``confusions,'' Argentina's ambassador to the United
with Cuban exile leaders and told them that his country will support Cuba's
growing economic integration to the region, while it will continue criticizing the
Ambassador Diego Guelar said Friday that he has held separate meetings
this week with leaders of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and
the pro-dialogue Cambio Cubano, to explain Argentina's recent co-sponsorship of
Cuba's admission into the Uruguay-based Latin American Free Trade Association
``We are pursuing a two-track policy,'' Guelar said, conceding that Argentina's
Cuba policy has been seen by many as zig-zagging. ``We have consistently
expressed our criticism of the Cuban regime, while we have expressed to the U.S.
government with the same strength that an almost 40-year embargo has failed to
bring about democracy in Cuba.''
Until earlier this year, Argentina's government had been -- along with
Spain -- one
of the most vocal critics of Cuban President Fidel Castro's one-party system.
Spain has since drastically changed its position, sent its foreign minister on an
official visit to the island and announced two visits by Spanish King Juan Carlos II
to Cuba next year.
Argentina, in turn, has stepped up its criticism of the U.S. embargo, and
recently co-sponsored with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay the island's admission
into ALADI. In addition, President Menem announced earlier this year that,
contrary to previous suggestions that he would boycott the meeting, he would
attend the 1999 Ibero-American summit in Havana.
Argentine officials have said in recent months that their country's shift
is due to its
desire to collect an estimated $1.3 billion debt from Cuba, which Havana's
government has yet to recognize. In addition, Argentine officials say they perceive
a change in international public opinion toward Cuba, including in Washington
``Today, the one that is most isolated is not Castro, but the United States''
said, referring to the international opposition to the U.S. trade sanctions. ``I don't
think that the recent initiative by U.S. Senators to appoint a bipartisan commission
[to re-think U.S. Cuba policy] is anecdotal. We think it's an important signal.''
Guelar said, however, that in keeping with Argentina's ``two-track'' policy,
country will continue opposing Cuba's admission into the Organization of
American States, and will continue voting for Cuba's condemnation on human
rights grounds at the United Nations.
Ninoska Perez Castellon, a spokeswoman for CANF, said her group thanked
Guelar for the visit and used the opportunity to convey the message to his
government ``that nothing has changed in Cuba, that Fidel Castro continues
heading the same authoritarian system that has been ruling Cuba for the past 40