Skip to comments.Dodd's request for memo hinders Latin envoy's job
Posted on 06/12/2003 11:50:07 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., is demanding that the State Department release a classified ''end of tour'' cable that the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, Vicki Huddleston, sent to the department before her departure nearly a year ago.
Dodd has set the cable's release as a condition for moving ahead with a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of Roger F. Noriega to become the senior U.S. diplomat to Latin America.
Such cables traditionally offer candid assessments of U.S. policy, and State Department officials say that if the cables are routinely divulged, U.S. ambassadors will clam up. The department has offered to show the classified cable to three ranking senators on the committee, including Dodd -- but not staff aides. Dodd wrote a letter Wednesday saying that's not good enough.
After Noriega's nomination first came up before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dodd submitted three written questions -- one about the role of an International Republican Institute employee working in Haiti, and two dealing with Cuba.
Dodd asked the State Department to explain the stated goal of the current senior U.S. diplomat in Havana, James Cason, in carrying out a ''more confrontational approach'' toward the Fidel Castro regime. He asked for an outline of instructions on any such policy that Cason might have received.
Dodd also asked for the final lengthy ''end of tour'' cable sent by Huddleston before her departure from Havana about 10 months ago. She was Cason's predecessor.
While Dodd appears satisfied by lengthy responses delivered by the State Department to Capitol Hill June 4 on the Haiti matter and Cason's role, his office has insisted on seeing the Huddleston cable.
Just what is in her cable is not publicly known.
Some congressional staffers say Dodd believes the cable contains warnings that the Bush administration policy of intense engagement with political dissidents in Cuba would lead to a crackdown.
A severe crackdown in March and April left 75 pro-democracy activists with lengthy jail terms.
Others say the cable contains no such criticism.
Huddleston is now U.S. ambassador to Mali.
A State Department official, speaking on anonymity, said the department wants to keep a candid and classified channel for departing U.S. ambassadors to air their opinions. He said it opposes routine release of such ''end of tour'' cables.
If such cables are made public, he said, departing ambassadors ``are going to stop writing anything worth reading. They'll send pablum.''
Noriega, a third-generation Mexican American from Kansas and a veteran staff member on Capitol Hill, is currently U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.
He faced no strong opposition in his May 1 Senate committee hearing. But since then, his nomination has become entangled in a battle over U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., later put a ''hold'' on his nomination to pressure Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to allow an up-or-down vote on the full Senate floor for his proposal to relax U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Such internecine battles between Capitol Hill and the State Department have blocked the State Department post from being filled by a Senate-approved nominee for nearly five years. The delays have sunk initial expectations that Noriega's nomination might clear the Senate by mid-June. Some supporters wonder whether he will even obtain a vote by August, when Congress goes into recess.
Cubans swarm Spanish and Italian embassies to protest EU - "Fidel is pathetic."***Castro marched through the narrow streets of Old Havana, while his brother Raul, head of the armed forces, marched through a residential neighborhood, past the Italian embassy. Followers carried placards equating Italy's fascist past to Europe's decision to punish Cuba. The government said it expected the crowds to swell to more than a million, as the labor ministry gave workers the day off. Posters depicted Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a "puppet" and a "little fuhrer." Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi became "Benito Berlusconi," in reference to Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
........... Felipe Gonzalez, Spain's Socialist prime minister from 1982-1996, told The Miami Herald, "Fidel is pathetic." Gonzalez was the conservative Aznar's predecessor and had a generally warm relationship with Castro. But he is among those in Europe whose patience with Castro clearly has waned. "Now he is like Franco when he was dying," Gonzalez said in the interview published Thursday.***
I think that just about sums it up..."