Cuba to strengthen relations with EU
Keiichi Honma / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, 39, said during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday at the Cuban Foreign Ministry that there was "no possibility" for dialogue with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to improve the bilateral relationship. He also said Cuba would survive in the international community by developing a relationship with the European Union, which recently added Eastern European countries that are former members of the socialist bloc that included Cuba.
Roque is seen a strong candidate to succeed Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The Yomiuri Shimbun: How do you evaluate the current relationship between the United States and Cuba?
Roque: The relations between Cuba and the U.S. government have worsened, and now they are very tense, which is due exclusively to the Bush administration. President Bush is under pressure from extremist Cuban groups living in Miami, but Cuba's relations with the rest of the United States are good.
The Bush administration has not paid attention to the opinion of Congress, both the House and the Senate, which adopted an amendment to allow Americans to travel to Cuba and expand avenues for trade. They have tightened the blockade and adopted new measures to further isolate Cuba economically. President Bush has stated that his policy toward Cuba is to bring a change in regime.
The Bush government included Cuba in a list of six countries it says sponsor terrorism and accused Cuba repeatedly of developing a program for biological weapons. Each of which is a lie, a false allegation, an attempt to fabricate a pretext to make it possible for them to justify aggression toward Cuba. So, due to the Bush administration, bilateral relations are in their worst condition.
Do you have a strategy to improve relations with the Bush administration?
Such an improvement is not in Cuba's hands, it's in the hands of the U.S. government. The U.S. government should recognize the right of Cubans to self-determination and should abandon its policy of regime change in Cuba. The U.S. government should lift the blockade and allow Cubans to build in peace and without outside pressure on our own future.
Is it possible to achieve this improvement during the Bush administration?
No. I believe President Bush has a debt of gratitude with extremist violent groups of Cubans based in Miami that helped him in the previous election by committing fraud, and they are helping him try to win a second election. For that reason, I guess he doesn't have the freedom or the will to normalize relations with Cuba.
Since last year, Cuba has experienced friction with some member countries of the European Union after 75 dissidents were sentenced to prison in Cuba. What developments do you expect in the relations with Europe?
Cuba wants to maintain respectful relations with Europe. More than one million tourists come from that continent annually, and more than one-third of our exports got to those countries. Over the past three years, the European Union under the influence of (former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria) Aznar was used by the United States, following U.S. policy rather than its own toward a policy of confrontation with Cuba. I guess that in this regard, Aznar's exit from the political scene could facilitate a change in the EU's position.
What is the Cuban approach toward North Korea's nuclear program and what can it do to solve it?
Cuba has normal, respectful and cordial diplomatic relations with North Korea. Our country supports a peaceful and negotiated settlement to the conflict. We are willing to do everything in our power if it is necessary. There can be no military solutions.
How do you see the relationship with Japan?
Cuba is interested in maintaining relations with Japan, relations which are now 75 years old. We believe economic relations have developed. There also are possibilities for an increase in Japanese tourism.
Occasionally, some actions sour the relationship, such as the decision of the Japanese government to cosponsor and vote in favor of resolution presented by the United States against Cuba on human rights.
We hope the Japanese rectify this situation and that through dialogue and increasing contacts, we will be able to overcome such disagreements.