Cuba’s new ambassador to New Zealand praises the helpful Clark government and criticises ex Australian PM John Howard.
He hints that relations with Australia may improve under the new regime led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
From Monday’s Dominion Post
Cuba’s man in Wellington says the capital was chosen ahead of Canberra for an embassy because of the Castro regime’s frustration with Australia’s pro-American stance.
With Cubans today voting in an election that could lead to Fidel Castro resuming complete power from his brother Raul, ambassador Jose Luis Robaina Garcia has expressed confidence in Cuba’s one-party rule, gratitude toward New Zealand, and uncertainty about future relations with Australia.
The embassy, established late last year, is the communist state’s first in New Zealand.
Since arriving in Wellington, Mr Robaina Garcia has made a point of promoting ties between the two countries – at the expense of Australia, where memories of John Howard’s pro-American “deputy sheriff” role remain fresh.
Attitudes to Australia may change with the Rudd-led government, but for the time being “that is the reality“.
It is an expression the former journalist turned diplomat uses frequently as he outlines Cuba’s rigid political place in the world. Cuba holds five-yearly elections today – but Mr Robaina Garcia denies they are mock elections or, given its one-party state, without purpose.
“We need to unite the people in one direction,” he said. “If people don’t support Cuba’s political system they have many ways to express that … It is a secret ballot.”
Even though 60 per cent of Cuba’s population was born after the revolution, Mr Robaina Garcia, whose last posting was Beijing, doubts the political system will change. “We don’t have another way. With Fidel or without Fidel we will continue the Fidel road.”
The US trade embargo was opposed by New Zealand, which has supported United Nations resolutions for the sanctions to end.
Even though the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry maintains that relations with the Caribbean country “have traditionally been correct but not warm“, Mr Robaina Garcia expressed gratitude for New Zealand’s support “in the blockade matter“. New Zealand supplies 70 per cent of the milk Cubans drink.
His feelings for Australia’s recent stance are less charitable. “Australia had the Howard government, and we are very unhappy with this pro-American deputy sheriff.”
The change of government had created a “totally different” situation but he would not comment on whether it would lead to warmer diplomatic relations.
Hat Tip Crusader Rabbit