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From the July 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 7)

Latin America

Mexico/Cuba: Fox and Fidel

Robert Taylor, World Press Review contributing editor

Fidel Castro
Cuban President Fidel Castro at the April 22 news conference at which he played a recording of a phone conversation he had with Mexican President Vicente Fox (Photo: AFP). 
Cuban President Fidel Castro’s controversial release of the secretly taped transcript of a private telephone conversation with Mexican President Vicente Fox has accelerated the deterioration in a bilateral relationship that historically has remained close since Castro’s rise to power more than four decades ago. Havana’s publication of the transcript “places Cuban-Mexican relations at their lowest level in history,” Mexico City’s La Jornada observed (April 23). “It exposes deplorable aspects in both governments, and casts both statesmen in a poor light.”

The transcript revealed a personal appeal by Fox, made prior to a U.N.-sponsored conference in Monterrey in March also attended by U.S. President George W. Bush, asking Castro to cut short his planned visit to the summit and avoid criticism of U.S. policies during his stay. By exposing Fox in an apparent contradiction with his previous public comments regarding Castro’s visit to Monterrey, “Castro is declaring political war on the Fox government and showing us a Mexican president unsure of himself and poorly prepared,” wrote human-rights activist Sergio Aguayo Quezada in Mexico City’s Reforma (April 24). At the same time, he added, the apparent condescension with which Castro responded to his diplomatically inexperienced counterpart “seems to me an offensive way to treat...the democratically elected president of the Mexican people.” In Aguayo’s view, “We are all the losers from the current diplomatic feud.”

Rosa Miriam Elizalde, writing in Havana’s Juventud Rebelde (April 24), laid the blame for the souring in bilateral relations at the doorstep of Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, a “Pancho Villa in reverse” who has transformed himself from a onetime leftist revolutionary into a “diligent messenger boy for the United States.” Under Castañeda and Fox, Elizalde contended, Mexican foreign policy “no longer recalls its old independent luster in the Latin American community.”

Describing the Mexican-Cuban spat as “a farce with a Third World plot,” José Blanco argued in La Jornada (April 30) that Mexican legislators should focus instead on launching “a rational debate of a doctrine that is out of step with today’s world....While the complex and asymmetrical nature of the Mexican-U.S. relationship requires that Mexico pursue other diplomatic avenues to counterbalance U.S. influence, he added, “Cuba is marginal in this respect, given its political and economic insignificance.”

Adolfo Sánchez Rebolledo, writing in La Jornada (April 25), asserted that Mexico’s more critical stance on Cuba’s human-rights record is part of a fundamental shift in foreign policy toward a less independent and more openly pro-U.S. line.

“It is unjust and immoral to condemn Cuba while the blockade and daily aggression against the island...continue, even as it is equally absurd and irrational to think that nothing should change on the island,” he said.

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