Cuba’s secret negotiator with US was president’s son: cardinal
AFP March 24, 2017
Havana (AFP) – Cuban President Raul Castro’s son, Alejandro, was the
communist island’s envoy for secret negotiations with the United States
that led to the countries’ historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to
the talks said.
Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the
president’s 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.
But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop
of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date — and further boosts
the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future
president of Cuba.
Castro Espin was “at the head of the Cuban delegation,” Ortega said in a
speech to a conference in the United States that was published in the
latest issue of Cuban Catholic magazine Secular Space (Espacio Laical).
Ortega, who recently stepped down as head of the Cuban Church,
represented the Vatican at the talks, which Pope Francis played a key
part in brokering.
The US delegation was led by Ricardo Zuniga, a top adviser to then US
president Barack Obama.
The negotiations led to the announcement of a rapprochement in December
2014 after more than half a century of Cold War hostility.
Castro Espin, an army colonel, is an international relations expert.
The president’s only son, he kept a low profile for years. But he was
present when his father and Obama held their first-ever talks in Panama
in April 2015.
Many observers now tip him to be a major player in the power transition
due next February, when Castro is due to step down.
Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, is seen as Castro’s heir apparent.
But Castro Espin is increasingly viewed as a president-in-waiting.
Ortega also unveiled another mystery of the US-Cuba talks, saying the
date of the rapprochement announcement — December 17 — was chosen
because it is Pope Francis’s birthday.
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