The Miami Herald
November 22, 2000

Basque issue divides Spain, Castro


 Cuban President Fidel Castro's refusal last weekend to sign a declaration
 condemning Basque separatist terrorism has drawn sharp condemnation from
 Spain, whose government warned it may have ``consequences'' in the two
 countries' relations.

 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
 against Cuba.

 Castro, 74, was the only head of state at the summit who did not sign a
 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 weekend.

 ``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 ``a little
 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 Castro's
 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,
 Romero said.