Cuba selects exile leaders for 'dialogue'
Miami News Reporter
WASHINGTON — Cuban officials are handpicking a group of Cuban exiles who will go to Havana to establish a dialogue with President Fidel Castro, a Cuban diplomatic source has confirmed.
The information comes on the heels of a news conference held Saturday by Ramon Sanchez Parodi, head of the Cuban Interest Section. his first meeting with reporters since arriving here 14 months ago.
The Cuban Interest Section unofficially represents the Castro government here since Cuba and the United States severed diplomatic ties.
Sanchez Parodi repeated an invitation made by Castro two months ago to meet with exile representatives in Havana to work out programs for the release of 3,000 political prisoners, the reuniting of Cuban families and visits to Cuba by exiles.
He warned, however, that if the Cuban exile community did not show a willingness to talk, their hesitation would be interpreted as meaning "there is no desire to solve these problems and therefore there is no concern for any of those things."
During the press conference, Sanchez Parodi suggested his government's move to pick representatives for the conference in Havana was made because exiles have not been able to organize themselves in 20 years, "and we are not expecting them to organize now."
Cuba is 'contacting all of those who expressed willingness to participate in this dialogue.' he said. "We (have) tried to get in contact with them and 'organize it in some way."
The selected exile group, in the process of receiving formal invitations from Castro. could number as many as 40 or 50, the Cuban diplomatic source said.
Exiles being contacted are from Miami, New York. Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain and elsewhere, the source said. Cuban officials are doing the selecting because no other method has been found to pick the broadest range of representatives, he said.
"Right now, no one has a complete list (of those invited) because some have not answered and others are reticent to express themselves publicly. It has been a real problem," the source said.
Although Sanchez Parodi did not set a target date for the conference, the diplomatic source said it "would probably come before the end of the month."
The selected group would be the one with which the Cuban government would discuss the political-prisoner problem and the reunification of families. No other groups would be involved, he said, because "this would just simply lead to confusion and eluding the issues."
Hostility among exiles toward Cuba is diminishing, Sanchez Parodi said. "Now is the moment to open discussions," he said.
The talks will not involve the U.S. government because they will be "among Cubans (discussing) internal problems of Cuba," he said, forecasting further lessening of tensions with the exile community.
Asked about the State Department's statement last week that it would allow about 50 prisoners and 100 family members a month into the United States, Sanchez Parodi said any change in the number of prisoners and relatives allowed into the United States would depend on the interest shown by the Cuban exile community and demands they might make on the U.S. government.
Sanchez Parodi's press conference was designed to end rumors circulating among Cuban exiles that just because the Cuban government had submitted five more lists of 289 prisoners to the State Department, not "everything was solved," the diplomatic source said.
"If there is no dialogue, there is not going to be an acceleration of this process," he said.
Since Cuba released 46 prisoners and 33 relatives who arrived in Miami Oct. 21, Sanchez Parodi said, the government has been inundated with requests from exiles asking for the release of their loved ones.
"In a sense we are forced to address this situation on a case-by-case basis.... But being aware there exists those issues that are of concern to Cubans living abroad, we want to explore the way of thinking of the broadest range of Cubans living in other countries so. we Won't be forced to address them in case-by-case basis."
Asked if the Cuban government would accept Eduardo Boza Masvidal as a member of the exile delegation, Sanchez Parodi said his government would be willing. Boza Masvidal was expelled from Cuba in the early 1960s for a counter-revolutionary attitude. He now lives in Venezuela.
Sanchez Parodi's first press conference here appeared to emphasize that Cuba wants to decrease tension and hostility with the exile community and that it wants to impress the U.S. government with its serious intent to improve relations with the United States and the exiles, U.S. government officials said.
It is the first time the Cuban Interest Section has taken an active
role in expressing Cuban government policy.