Spain says Cuba's Castro committed to reform
Tue Oct 20, 12:27 am ET
HAVANA (Reuters) – Spain's foreign minister met with Cuban President
Raul Castro on Monday and said the communist leader affirmed his
commitment to economic reform and expressed his desire to continue
improving relations with the United States.
Castro also promised to pay about $450 million in back payments to
Spanish companies doing business on the cash-strapped Caribbean island,
said Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Moratinos, speaking to reporters at the end of a two-day trip to the
former Spanish colony, described wide-ranging talks on topics ranging
from Cuba-European Union relations to improvements in Cuba's human rights.
Moratinos said Castro told him during a 2007 visit of his plans to
reform Cuba's state-dominated economy and repeated his commitment to
change on Monday.
"I have found in President Castro a commitment to reform, to advance the
process of reform in the whole country, to improve the economic
situation of Cuba," he said. "Today he reiterated his will to continue
Since replacing his ailing older brother Fidel Castro as president last
year, Raul Castro has initiated a handful of reforms aimed at making
Cuba's economy more productive but has been criticized for moving too
He has made it clear his objective is to preserve the socialist state
imposed after the 1959 Cuban revolution that put his brother in power
for 49 years.
Moratinos said Castro had good words about U.S. President Barack Obama
and was pleased at recent Obama-initiated talks on migration issues and
the possible resumption of direct U.S-Cuba mail service broken off since
Obama also has eased the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba,
imposed to topple the Castro government, by lifting restrictions on
travel and the sending of remittances to the island by Cuban Americans.
"They hope to be able to improve … relations with the United States,"
Moratinos said of the Cubans.
Moratinos was not returning home empty-handed.
He said Castro "had personally committed and given instructions" that
Spanish companies awaiting payments for about $450 million in goods and
services would be paid.
Cuba has frozen payments to many foreign companies because of a
cash-crunch brought on by the global recession.
Moratinos said human rights were discussed "in general," and that Spain
"always maintains a clear position in defense and promotion of human
Spain takes over the revolving presidency of the European Union in
January and Moratinos said its "principal objective" will be moving the
27-nation bloc away from a 1996 resolution that conditioned dialogue
with Cuba on its "transition to a multi-party democracy."
The one-party Cuban state considers the resolution unacceptable.
Moratinos said he had not met with any government opponents during his
visit because his purpose was "to strengthen bilateral relations" with Cuba.
(Reporting by Esteban Israel, Rosa Tania Valdes and Jeff Franks; editing
by Jeff Franks and Bill Trott)
Spain says Cuba's Castro committed to reform – Yahoo! News (20 October 2009)