Basque issue divides Spain, Castro
BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
Cuban President Fidel Castro's refusal last weekend to sign a
condemning Basque separatist terrorism has drawn sharp condemnation from
Spain, whose government warned it may have ``consequences'' in the two
But, despite the criticism of Castro by Spanish Prime Minister
José María Aznar
and several of the 21 heads of state attending the Ibero-American summit in
Panama, most experts agree that Spain is not likely to take drastic action
Castro, 74, was the only head of state at the summit who did not
declaration condemning terrorism by the Basque separatist group ETA.
In a passionate tirade, Castro complained that the resolution
failed to refer to what
he claimed was ``state terrorism coming from the United States'' against his
Witnesses say Castro sought to shift the debate to an alleged
plot against his life
by Luis Posada Carriles, an activist who has tried to kill Castro on several
occasions. Posada Carriles and three other men were arrested in Panama over
``The fact that Cuba didn't support the [anti-ETA] resolution
is a serious matter,''
Aznar said. ``We are not going to take any specific action, but it's unthinkable
that this would not have any consequences.''
On Tuesday, the influential Spanish daily El País quoted
diplomatic sources as
saying that Spain may retaliate against Cuba at the Paris Club, a group of
European creditors with which Cuba is trying to renegotiate its $11 billion foreign
But Joaquin Roy, a University of Miami professor and author of
The Ever Faithful
Island: One Century of Spanish-Cuban Relations, says he does not believe the
incident amounts to more than one of the many periodic brawls between the two
``This is a family feud,'' Roy said. ``If the previous pattern
holds, it will not lead to
a break of diplomatic relations nor any major decrease in Spain's involvement in
In recent years, Castro has at various times snidely called Aznar
gentleman,'' and Cuban officials have publicly called Spain's foreign minister a liar.
Spain's embassy in Havana remained vacant for more than a year in 1996, after
Cuba refused to accept the appointment of an ambassador who vowed to open up
his embassy to dissidents.
At the Summit, Salvadoran President Francisco Flores sharply denied
claim that El Salvador had given protection to Posada Carriles. ``It is absolutely
intolerable that you, who have trained people to kill many Salvadorans, would
accuse me to be tied to Posada Carriles,'' Flores said.
No U.S. officials were invited to the summit. But Peter Romero,
head of the U.S.
State Department's office of Inter-American affairs, told The Herald during a stop
in Miami Tuesday that Castro's failure to sign the declaration against the Basque
terrorists ``speaks eloquently about Castro's continued support for the ETA.''
Cuba has long provided a haven for Basque terrorists, and continues
to do so,