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  HOME | Cuba

Moratinos' Visit a Hopeful Sign, Cuban Prelate Says

HAVANA – Cuba’s Catholic primate, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, said Tuesday that the presence in Havana of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos “reaffirms ... hope” regarding the situation of political prisoners on the communist-ruled island.

“His visit reaffirms the hope that we announced earlier regarding these issues of the prisoners and of all that has to do with an advance in Cuba’s presence in the positively considered world context,” the archbishop of Havana said.

The cardinal made his remarks to reporters after meeting at the archdiocese with the Spanish minister, who is in Cuba to support the open dialogue between the Catholic Church and the government of Raul Castro on the political prisoners.

So far, that dialogue has led to the release of one political detainee and the transfer of a dozen others to prisons in their home provinces.

Ortega thanked the Spanish minister for his stance of “communication and (being a) bridge” with Cuba, as well as for his efforts to try and normalize relations with the European union, governed since 1996 by the 27-member bloc’s “common position” on Cuba, which conditions better relations on moves by Havana in favor of human rights and democratization.

“I thank him as a Cuban, as archbishop of Havana and as a member of this church that has had this special opportunity to move forward (in) a very propitious period to be able to take some positive steps in the best sense of our national situation,” said the prelate.

For his part, Moratinos said that the Spanish government feels “very satisfied” with the work of the Cuban church in its dialogue with Castro.

“We hope logically that that work will produce results,” said the head of the Spanish diplomatic corps, who guaranteed that Madrid “is in company with all the activities and efforts of Cardinal Ortega and the Catholic Church.”

After his meeting with Ortega, which lasted about 90 minutes, and in response to reporters’ questions the Spanish minister avoided making any remarks about the possibility that Spain might accept Cuban political prisoners if any releases occurred.

“We’re going to keep working, we’re going to keep talking and that is what we want to do,” he said.

Moratinos said earlier Tuesday that his visit to Cuba will be “very positive and successful” and will contribute toward persuading Spain’s EU partners to officially abandon the common position.

He made those remarks in his meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez.

Neither of the ministers referred explicitly to that process during the part of their conversation to which the press was allowed access, but they agreed in emphasizing the favorable period that Cuban-Spanish relations are going through and the desire of both parties for a new framework for Havana’s relationship with the European Union.

Moratinos said the moment had arrived to overcome the common position to move toward a “much more structured and more intense bilateral relationship” through mutual respect and political, economic and social “advances.”

Moratinos also emphasized the importance of the present period for bilateral relations between Cuba and Spain, and he emphasized that those ties are proceeding along a “very good road,” expressing confidence that cooperation will “continue intensifying” based on respect and dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Cuban foreign minister agreed with Moratinos in expressing the conviction that his current visit to Cuba will be “profitable,” and he emphasized that it is coming at a “promising moment” in bilateral ties.

Rodriguez expressed confidence that the trip would also have an effect on the EU and that the bloc’s relations with the island will be normalized “once the insuperable obstacle (of the common position) is removed,” a stance that he referred to as “unfair, unilateral and interfering.”

“We know the efforts of the (Jan. 1-June 30) Spanish presidency of the European Union to foster a better relationship with our country,” Rodriguez told Moratinos.

If the program he followed on his two previous visits is repeated this time, the Spanish foreign minister will also meet with President Castro, although any plans for such a get-together have not yet been confirmed. EFE

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