Castro heads to Mexico this week
By ANITA SNOW
Associated Press Writer
HAVANA -- (AP) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro travels to Mexico
this week at a
sensitive time in relations between the countries, shortly after accusing Mexico of
acting in U.S. interests and just before conservative President-elect Vicente Fox
Both Castro and Fox have said that they hope for a friendly relationship
their two countries. But the future of those relations is moving into uncharted
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for
seven decades and
which historically was friendly to Cuba, relinquishes the presidential throne to the
opposition with Fox's inauguration on Friday.
Fox brings with him a new foreign secretary, Jorge Castaneda,
a former Marxist
academic who has irked Cuba with criticism of the island's human rights
practices and an unsentimental biography of its revolutionary hero, Ernesto ``Che''
Fox, a former rancher and Coca-Cola executive who was candidate
decidedly pro-business, center-right National Action Party, has expressed hopes
for a democratic transition in Cuba. But he has rejected the U.S. policy of trying
to isolate the communist island.
When Fox was governor of the central Mexican state of Guanajuato,
Cuba and praised the communist government's advances in health and other
social services, Perez Roque noted. Fox met with Castro during that February
Early this month, Castro made a strong symbolic gesture of friendship
making a surprise appearance at the unveiling of a new statue of Mexican hero
Benito Juarez in Havana.
But on Saturday, the Cuban president made a swipe at Mexico -
along with Spain
and El Salvador - for those countries' support of a motion on terrorism during a
regional summit in Panama earlier this month.
Mexico's Foreign Secretariat on Sunday said it would not officially
Castro's comments ``out of courtesy'' for his trip to Mexico.
Cuba complained that the motion did not mention of terrorism aimed
communist island. It condemned terrorism in general and acts by the Spanish
separatist group ETA in particular.
The motion was seconded by ``a different Mexico,'' Castro complained,
``now ruled by the interests, the principles and the commitments imposed by the
(North American) Free Trade Agreement.''
For decades, Cuba counted Mexico among its closest friends - the
American country that refused to break relations with the communist nation after
the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power.
Mexico, located just across the Gulf of Mexico, during those years
of Cuba's most important trading partners outside the Soviet bloc. It has been a
leading critic of the U.S. trade embargo on the island.
The countries' special relationship was based in large part on
a shared history of
often testy relations with their neighbor to the north, the United States.
Thus, Mexican officials traditionally steered away from criticism
of Cuba's political
and economic systems, instead emphasizing a nation's right to choose its own
destiny without influence from other countries - especially the United States.
But that changed a year ago during the Ibero-American Summit of
Latin leaders in
President Ernesto Zedillo did what no Mexican leader had done
before - made an
implicit calls for greater democracy in Cuba.
``There cannot be sovereign nations without free men and women,''
Zedillo told the
summit, ``men and women who can fully exercise their essential freedoms:
freedom to think and give opinions, freedom to act and participate, freedom to
dissent, freedom to choose.''
Zedillo spelled out those freedoms as the ``liberty to think and
liberty to act and participate, liberty to dissent, liberty to choose.''