14ymedio, Madrid, 3 October 2023 — The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, has compared the anti-government demonstrations of 11 July 2021 [’11J’] in Cuba with the assault on the Washington Capitol on January 6 of that same year. In an interview with WLRN radio station, located in South Florida, the senior official also clarified that no change is expected that will allow Cuban-Americans to open companies on the Island, as the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, allegedly said last week.
Tim Padgett, editor of the radio chain, addressed the situation of bilateral relations with Fernández de Cossío, who argued – as in previous interviews – that progress has been made in some technical areas, especially those related to migration, but also in education, culture or legislation, including anti-terrorism. However, he again reproached the Biden Administration for maintaining a line that continues the policy of his predecessor, specifically regarding the embargo.
Thousands of people participated in the demonstration in Cuba more than two years ago. Thousands of people… and a few hundred were prosecuted
The interviewer reminded the official that the White House has put the brakes on an eventual reissue of the thaw due to the repression unleashed after the 11J protests, when there were thousands of arrests. “Thousands of people in the demonstration in Cuba more than two years ago. Thousands of people… and a few hundred were prosecuted,” argued Fernández de Cossío, who attributes the arrests and subsequent convictions to vandalism and not to the demands that were made that day on the marches.
“That in Cuba is a crime, as I suspect it is in the United States,” he said, which Padgett refuted with the figures of international human rights groups, according to which between 500 and 700 people were tried simply for protesting. “For the events of January 6, 2021, in the United States, people who were not even present in the area have been imprisoned, just because they were accused of inciting people to go to the Capitol,” said Fernández de Cossío in an unexpected and veiled defense, voluntary or not, of the leader of the far-right organization Proud Boys, the Cuban-American Enrique Tarrio.
The U.S. Justice Department sentenced Tarrio to 22 years in prison for encouraging the siege of the House of Representatives on the day when Joe Biden’s victory was to be ratified, in which five people died and 140 agents were injured. Tarrio was not in Washington because he was prohibited from approaching the federal capital after a previous arrest.
Another of the most interesting features of the conversation is the one that addresses the aforementioned easing of measures for the private sector. Fernández de Cossío categorically denied that Díaz-Canel spoke in New York about possible legislative changes to allow Cuban-Americans to own businesses on the Island.
I think there is a misunderstanding. Cuba is not waiting for the United States to act to any extent. The growth of the private sector in Cuba is a national decision
“I’m surprised by what you say, because I was at that meeting and the president never said that. Whoever reported that did not remember what happened there,” clarified the deputy minister, who emphasizes that Cuban Americans will be welcome like any other foreign investor and with the same conditions, but that only residents can incorporate a company. The official also took the opportunity to downplay Washington’s possible measures to provide credits or accounts in U.S. banks to the owners of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Cuba in order to promote the private sector.
“I think there is a misunderstanding. Cuba is not waiting for the United States to act to any extent. The growth of the private sector in Cuba is a national decision,” he said. Fernández de Cossío indicates that the owners of MSMEs also suffer “the economic blockade, but Cuba does not need a bilateral banking relationship with the United States for the private sector in Cuba to prosper.”
The deputy minister admitted that there have been “mismanagement” and “inefficiencies” on the part of the Cuban government and that things must be improved, but the fundamentals will not change. On the one hand, he rejected the possibility of large companies outside the state sector. “We do not conceive, at least for the moment, that there are large monopolies, large concentrations of property, large concentrations of wealth and large concentrations of capital,” he specifies.
Nor will there be, he made clear, a fluctuation in politics. “If liberalization is called on to make money and participate in politics for the parties to serve as machines so that politicians can be influenced and then the corporations and the rich have the ability to finance and buy political favors, that is something that we will not grant in Cuba,” he responded when asked about a possible plural system.
Our relationship with Russia is a good relationship. We don’t think it’s damaged, although on some issues we don’t have a similar point of view
Fernández de Cossío also addressed the issue of Cuban recruits who fight with the Russian army, to whom, he said, the laws on human trafficking and smuggling will be applied, as well as the one that punishes mercenarism. The official said that Havana was the first to detect the network and to begin collecting information from different governments to deactivate it, something that, if so, was made public when it was already a clamor in the independent and international media.
“Our relationship with Russia is a good relationship. We do not believe that it is damaged, although on some issues we do not have a similar point of view,” he replied when asked about the possible repercussions on the friendship between the two countries, closer than ever in recent years.
In addition, the deputy minister tiptoed over the alleged attack on the Cuban embassy in Washington. After his boss, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, said from the beginning that those responsible were exiles, whom he described as “anti-Cuban groups that resort to terrorism and feel impunity,” Fernández de Cossío apparently evades that position.
“It is not up to us to rush and start making accusations without knowing the facts or the investigation. That should be done by the law enforcement authorities in the United States,” he said.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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