Saturday, July 30, 2005

Jul 30/05 - On a historic enemy's reaction to personnel changes at State Department

PMBComment: Cuba's paramount "US specialist" can afford sarcasm when discussing the dismissal of Roger Noriega because in him they really had a surprising ally. It is always amazing to observe how adept the Cubans, with Alarcon at the helm, are at defining US policy towards the island "paradise". One would hope that in a second term, with no elections in the nearest of futures (Jeb and George P. are far into the future), Bush 43 would responsibly walk out of the curious confines of a policy approach that has always seemed eerily pro-Castro. What Alarcon should really be made to miss is the predictability of US policy and he should have his hard earned credentials as the world's top US-teaser tested thoroughly by a new and bold approach.

Having said this, If Caleb McCarry's appointment to head the "Cuba Transition" effort at State was merely an attempt by Bush-Rice to placate some in Miami for firing Noriega, Alarcon and his pupils (Chavez being a particular adept one) will take seconds to notice and continue on their path. On the other hand, if the change in personnel has anything to do with smarts, I would not like to be in the shoes of these one-trick-pony-revolutionaries. Let's wait - a few weeks - and see which scenario we are on. PMB

PS: I forgot to mention that I will miss Noriega for exactly the same reasons Alarcon mentioned and because I subscribe entirely with Riordan Roett's (head of the Western Hemisphere program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies) quote in yesterday's Miami Herald; he said that Noriega was ``an individual clearly marked by his ideological preference, he inspired little confidence in South America, an area about which he knew little and learned less during his tenure.' Impossible to say it more succinctly.....


July 30 2005
Cuban official dismisses personnel changes

Associated Press

HAVANA - Cuban Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon dismissed recent personnel changes in the U.S. State Department's Western Hemisphere bureau, saying Saturday they will not affect long-standing tensions between Cuba and the United States.

Roger Noriega, head of the bureau, is expected to leave the State Department soon, and Caleb McCarry, a veteran congressional staff expert on Latin America, was appointed to a new post aimed at preparing for a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.

The adjustments "will not change anything in the relations" between the two countries, Alarcon told reporters during a meeting with American activists in Havana.

Alarcon joked that Noriega, who consistently takes a hard-line stance against Cuba, would be sorely missed.

"I'm going to miss him a lot if he doesn't appear before cameras talking, saying dumb things. He's really a very funny person," he said.

Noriega is to be replaced by Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat and Latin America expert at the National Security Council.

Alarcon was meeting with Pastors for Peace, a humanitarian group from the United States that came to Cuba to donate aid and defy a U.S. travel ban against the island. The group visited hurricane-damaged regions and attended a commemoration ceremony for the revolutionary fighter Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the central province of Santa Clara.