Fox meets Cuban dissidents
Mexico still supports Castro regime through trade, noninterference
By TRACEY EATON / The Dallas Morning News
HAVANA – Vicente Fox on Monday became the first Mexican president to meet
members of Cuba's internal political opposition while on an official visit.
"This is very important to us," said Elizardo Sanchez, one of the dissidents
the president. "The Cuban government treats us as nonhumans. Having Fox come
see us shows that we're human."
Cuban officials had no immediate reaction to the meeting, which took place
Even so, some analysts say, Mr. Fox's trip to Cuba was much more positive
negative for the communist regime.
Leaders of the two nations talked about ways to boost commerce, something
cash-strapped Cuba is keenly interested in doing.
Mexico also promised to support Cuba in other ways, too. It won't meddle
affairs and will almost certainly abstain when the U.N. Human Rights Commission
votes on whether to condemn Cuba's human rights record in March, Mexican Foreign
Minister Jorge Castañeda said.
Some critics of the socialist regime have wanted Mexico to take a more
in trying to bring democratic change to the island.
Mr. Sanchez, who heads an opposition group in Havana, said that Mr. Fox
he hoped that Cubans would be able to solve the country's problems on their own.
Cuban officials have said they resent outside interference, especially
United States, which imposed a ban on trade with Cuba four decades ago.
On his return to Mexico, Mr. Fox issued a statement that the trip had been
satisfying." Without directly criticizing the Castro government, Mr. Fox said Cuba
should move toward international standards on human rights and democracy.
Mr. Fox said that he and Mr. Castro had discussed both nations' relationships
the United States and the effects of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"I stressed to him [Mr. Castro] that in my numerous encounters with President
Bush, I have found a U.S. leader that is a friend to Mexico, ready to listen, and
especially receptive," Mr. Fox said.
Staff writer Laurence Iliff in Mexico City contributed to this report.