Skip to comments.Cuba Takes Control of Spanish Center
Posted on 06/14/2003 12:43:10 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
HAVANA - Fidel Castro's communist government took its first major step in its anti-Europe campaign Saturday, taking control of the Spanish Embassy's cultural center - a showcase of Iberian tradition Havana says was used to nurture the opposition.
The Foreign Ministry announcement came two days after Castro led hundreds of thousands of people on marches outside the Spanish and Italian embassies in the capital to protest European alignment with U.S. policies supporting pro-democracy dissidents.
Havana was responding to the 15-member European Union's announcement last week that it would review its relations with the island after a crackdown on the opposition and the firing-squad executions of three men who tried to hijack a ferry to South Florida.
A government statement Saturday said Cuba was canceling its agreement with the Spanish Embassy, first signed in 1995 and renewed in September, to operate the cultural center in a renovated historic building facing the ocean in the capital's Old Havana district.
Cuban authorities told Spanish officials of the decision Friday, giving them 90 days to relinquish control of the two-story building, owned by the Cuban government.
"The accord signed by both countries said that the center would be created to promote the best values of Spanish culture based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and nonintervention in Cuba's internal affairs," the Foreign Ministry said.
"Far from promoting Spanish culture in our country - the reason it was created - it has maintained a program of activities unrelated to its original function, in open challenge of Cuban laws and institutions," the statement added.
"Under Cuban administration, the center will be completely dedicated to promote the best values of the Spanish culture in our country," it said.
The center was operating normally Saturday morning, but there were no officials present authorized to comment on Cuba's announcement. The Spanish Embassy nearby was closed for the weekend and diplomats were unavailable. In Madrid, the Spanish government also said it had no comment.
Inside the center, an exhibit of Iberian design was on display, with objects including plates, jewelry and lamps. In one workshop, Spanish graphics artist Isidro Ferrer was teaching a class to his Cuban counterparts.
Ferrer, who was flying back to Madrid later Saturday, said it was unfortunate the center had become the focus of a political battle. "Cultural should not be at the service of politics," Ferrer said.
Foreign Ministry did not provide details about how the center allegedly was being used to violate Cuba's internal affairs. But on Wednesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque accused the Spanish government" of funding opposition groups.
The center was inaugurated amid much fanfare in 1997 in the century-old building known as the Palacio de las Cariatides on the eastern end of the Malecon coastal highway.
It houses a large salon for receptions, along with a library of Spanish books and an archive of phonograph records. Exhibits, workshops, lectures and other cultural events are regularly held there.
Over the years, the center was visited by many well-known Spanish cultural figures, including filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and writer Manuel Vazquez Montablan, along with Cuban artists such as writer Miguel Barnet and composer Leo Brouwer.
Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Issues: Veiled Threats to Spanish Cultural Center and EU embassies
The Spanish Cultural Centre in Havana, far from promoting Spanish culture in Cuba, the purpose for which it was created, has, in open defiance of Cuban laws and institutions and in flagrant violation of the intent of the agreement that set it up, programmed a series of activities that have nothing to do with its original function.
In the next few days the Cuban authorities will take the appropriate measures to convert this center into an institution that truly meets the noble aim of popularizing Spanish culture in our country.
The mercenaries who try to turn the European embassies in Havana into centers for conspiring against the Revolution should be aware that the Cuban people are quite capable of demanding that our laws be rigorously applied. European embassies should be conscious of the fact that they will be failing to meet their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations if they allow themselves to be used for subversion against Cuba.
Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi became "Benito Berlusconi," in reference to Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
Seventy-five dissidents were jailed in April for up to 28 years, and three men who had tried to hijack a commuter ferry to Florida were summarily executed, ending a moratorium on the death penalty.
The EU decided to review its Cuba policy and restrict political and cultural contact with the communist island and released a statement on June 5.
"It must have been written in a drunken state, if not with alcohol, in a state of Eurocentric drunkenness," Castro said late Wednesday.
He branded Aznar and Berlusconi "fascists" and "bandits" as the brains behind the EU's Cuba policy, which he called "useless ... lacking seriousness ... gross and insolent."
"What bothers us most in all this, is that those who signed on to this statement are cooperating with the US government's Nazi-fascist policy," Castro said, adding that he would hold the EU leaders responsible for any possible US military attack on Cuba.
Castro also ordered three statues be placed outside Spain's embassy: of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca who was executed under dictator Francisco Franco; of Spanish poet Antonio Machado who was killed in exile; and of Pablo de la Torrente Brau, a Cuban journalist killed fighting with the international brigades against the Fascists.***