Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with Cuba’s Raul Castro in Santiago.
Here’s a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMYpdHIpvMU of Raul Castro’s speech at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union, held this past weekend in Santiago. The Cuban leader has just received the pro tempore presidency of CELAC and had a warm exchange with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, a conservative and business tycoon. Castro’s tone makes it clear he’s no softer, gentler version of his brother Fidel. There are brief shots of Venezuela’s acting president Nicolas Maduro talking to someone while Castro is speaking, and of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega stifling either a yawn or a cough.
Toward the end of his prepared speech Castro looked up and began some improvised comments about drug trafficking in Latin America, insisting there was no such activity in Cuba—aside from marijuana plants some Cubans grow in pots on their balconies.
“When tourism began to increase—and last year we had almost 3 million foreign visitors—Cuba became a target for drug traffickers,” he said. Castro said he met with various government agencies to unleash a “blood and fire” battle against the drug trade, and that more than 250 foreigners were imprisoned in Cuba on drugs charges. He made a reference to Mexico’s narcotraficantes, then began reminiscing about the voyage of the Granma yacht carrying 82 Cuban revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.
Piñera had a private meeting with Castro to discuss the 1991 killing of a Chilean senator, Jaime Guzman, who had worked closely with the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and helped draft the regime’s 1980 constitution. Chilean investigators have linked five members of the now-disbanded Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodriguez, an armed leftwing group with close ties to Cuba, to Guzman’s murder and at least four of the five men are believed to reside in Cuba. According to Piñera, Castro promised to “study the background details and deliver his best cooperation.” The story in El Nuevo Herald: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2012/01/28/139769/raul-castro-se-compromete-ayudar.html.
But Cuba’s foreign minister offered a different version of the meeting, telling reporters in Santiago that “no document or specific information was delivered or received” and that Piñera had only offered to approach Cuban authorities.
“The Cuban government is awaiting this information which will be considered by judicial authorities in our country,” said Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. He said the Castro-Piñera meeting was “fascinating, because a lot of time was spent talking about the insurrectional stage of the Cuban revolution” and that the Chileans showed “a surprising knowledge” of this history. http://cafefuerte.com/cuba/noticias-de-cuba/politica/2527-raul-castro-y-sebastian-pinera-hablan-del-moncada-y-la-sierra-maestra
And here is some background on the Guzman killing, courtesy of the U.S. State Department Electronic Reading Room.
- A declassified cable from the U. S. Embassy in Santiago describes the scene at Guzman’s funeral—which was attended by both the American and Soviet ambassadors: http://foia.state.gov/documents/StateChile3/000089A7.pdf
- A declassified Central Intelligence report describes how the Guzman assassination is fueling political tension just as Chile’s new civilian government completed an inquiry into human rights abuses under Pinochet: http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia3/00009232.pdf
- Another, almost completely redacted CIA report on the case is three pages long and begins with the words, “In mid-April 1991” and then is blacked out until the last page, with a text which reads, [ ] has information indicating that a cell of the dissident faction of the FPMR (FPR/DI, which is infiltrated by former national intelligence director General Manuel Contreras Sepulveda) carried out the April assassination of rightist Senator Jaime Guzman. [ ] angrily told [ ] this was disinformation.”: http://foia.state.gov/documents/Pcia3/0000925B.pdf
The Financial Times ran an editorial entitled “Silly in Chile”on the CELAC-EU summit: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9acf0624-663a-11e2-bb67-00144feab49a.html#axzz2JNIWEzY9
And Chilean political scientist Patricio Navia has this column , “An unnoticed absence,” on the summit and U.S. Latin American policy in the Buenos Aires Herald: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/122858/an-unnoticed-absence