U.S. Pressures Mexico to Prevent Cuba's Participation at U.N. Conference

The following is reprinted from the Cuban publication "Granma International".

(March 26, 2002) MONTERREY.- Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, president of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power and head of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, revealed that President Fidel Castro’s early return to Cuba was due to brutal pressure placed on the Mexican government by the United States.

Alarcón told a group of Cuban and foreign reporters that they were exceptional witnesses to the efforts made by the island’s delegation to avoid making declarations regarding the situation, which obliged President Fidel Castro to make a clarification after concluding his speech, and then to leave the conference.

"We tried to find a favorable solution and avoid having to do what I now have no choice but to do. Foreign Minister Castañeda declared to the press on several occasions that no steps were taken by any authorized official to place restrictions on Cuba’s participation, and he suggested several times that Cuba was the one that had to explain what had occurred, because he did not have the information. I must say that the statements Castañeda made are absolutely false.

"I was surprised to hear his statements, because I know that he knew exactly what had occurred. He knew perfectly well that Cuba knew, was informed and could have given appropriate explanations, and that nonetheless we had chosen not to do so, as was made evident to you yesterday when you made sustained efforts so that I would tell you what I am going to say now.

"Not only high-ranking officials, but I would say very high-ranking persons in the Mexican government communicated to us before the conference began that they had been subjected to pressures by the United States to block Cuba’s participati in the conference, and specifically to keep its delegation from being headed by the president of the Council of State, Comrade Fidel Castro.

"Cuba rejected those proposals, demanding its right to participate in a United Nations conference to which it was properly invited. As a result of Cuba’s reaction and Cuba’s resistance, and the apparently sustained and very strong U.S. pressure, they had to let Fidel come, but simultaneously requested and asked him – I repeat, very high-ranking persons in this country – to leave after the luncheon."

He added that this had not been explained before, "because we tried to be constructive and to persuade the Mexican authorities that the most suitable thing for everyone was to find an honorable, adequate solution, which is now impossible because the closed-door meeting [for heads of state, not heads of delegations] is now taking place.

Alarcón pointed out that some heads of state or government did not attend the closed-door meeting because, among other things, they knew it was a discriminatory meeting contributing an additional element of incorrectness to this process.

They say that the United Nations rules and those of the host country are different, the president of the Cuban parliament commented. "I am not a head of state, but I am the only person who is in Monterrey to whom the head of state delegated his representation, and he is the only head of state who has been arbitrarily excluded from participating in this meeting.

"It’s not true that Cuba could be represented by its head of state, because he was clearly and categorically asked to leave Mexico as soon as possible, that is, to leave yesterday at a specific time, after the luncheon."

In addition, the head of the Cuban delegation revealed the existence of a document in English referred to during the "closed-door" meeting, which would later be proposed for adoption by the conference and which could be the same as the Monterrey Consensus, in the sense that perhaps it would not be debatable or amendable.

He added that a group of people cannot assume the representation of a conference, without even asking permission.

He was very comforted and even moved by the fact that some Caribbean delegations had not attended the official dinner nor the meeting of heads of state, as an expression of solidarity with Cuba.

In response to a question, Alarcón stated that very little precedent will remain in the United Nations as a result of the incident with Cuba, because no one there will understand nor accept such a thing, which is completely contrary to the spirit and tradition of the organization. The United Nations demands that host countries of a meeting accept all members of the United Nations, based on a principle in the UN Charter’s first paragraph, establishing sovereign equality among states, he added.

He also highlighted that many of his colleagues, some government representatives, also wanted to know if Cuba would attend the activity, if the delegation was invited. "I can say that we feel very well accompanied and I have never had as much contact with heads of state or government as I have in the last hour, when they should presumably be participating in that meeting behind closed doors.

"I do not believe it has to do with a lack of hospitality on the part of the host country," he clarified. "It was simply impossible to resist that amount of pressure, which was strong enough to provoke a truly unheard-of situation. We, understanding the situation our Mexican friends faced, were willing to make a maximum effort, and that is what we have done."

He explained that the decision to expose this situation came "after it was reiterated to me by the Department of Foreign Relations that I could not participate in the famous closed-door meeting."

Regarding what he has heard from other countries about Fidel’s words, Alarcón said there were expressions of agreement and support, and that he heard very interesting opinions about concrete proposals that go far beyond the Monterrey Consensus, even expressions of dissatisfaction with the banal document, as it was described by the prime minister of Belgium, who also complained about the imposition of the document and the fact that there was no room for discussion at the highest political levels.

RELATIONS WITH MEXICO

When questioned about relations between both countries, he indicated that what had occurred was a regrettable event, "but relations with Mexico have passed through other difficult moments, which others have also tried to create. It’s not the first time. There is a long history of relations, in which the enemy of both Mexico and Cuba has attempted to create problems, but at the same time there are profound feelings, a solid friendship and solidarity between both peoples, millions and millions of Mexicans and Cubans, including people very representative of Mexican society.

"I’m confident that relations between Mexico and Cuba will be able to overcome any obstacle. The enemy will have to become stronger if it hopes to confuse our two nations in the future, but I don’t think it will succeed."