This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) This is an action request for WHA/CCA and USINT
Havana. See paragraph 8.
2. (C) Summary: MFA Director for the Americas Henryk
Szlajfer gave PolCouns a read-out on his recent visit to
Cuba, where he met only with opposition figures, and was
completely boycotted by the government. He said he was
impressed by the "determination" of many in the opposition,
but noted some divisions. Poland wants to do what it can to
support democracy movements in Cuba, and will follow the
German model in inviting opposition and government officials
to separate events on the same day for their upcoming
November 11 national day. Szlajfer asked our assistance in
helping to arrange a video conference between the dissidents
and former Polish President Lech Walesa. End Summary.
3. (C) Szlajfer, who spent time in jail under the Polish
Communist government, said he felt like he had "traveled back
in time," with the heavy-handed presence of police and the
economic stagnation. Prior to his trip the Cuban MFA called
the Polish Charge in Havana to warn that Szlajfer's visa had
been issued "by mistake," but he decided to travel. He was
met at the airport by the UK DCM (representing the EU). When
the Cuban government said officials would not meet with him
if he met with the opposition, he chose to meet the
opposition, and so had no official meetings during his stay.
4. (C) Szlajfer met with several opposition leaders and
groups, including Marta Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca,
Oswaldo Paya, and Elizardo Sanchez. (Note: Szlajfer said
that he understood that USINT Havana had some concerns about
Sanchez, perhaps because of his history in the secret police,
but noted that none of the other dissidents had any problem
meeting with Szlajfer with Sanchez present. End Note) He
also met with the "Ladies in White" group of wives of
political prisoners, and traveled to Pinar del Rio to meet
with Dagoberto Valdes and the local Catholic bishop. He
commented that the later group's activities were tolerate by
the Castro government because of their ties to the Vatican.
Szlajfer noted that he met all the opposition leaders at the
now-vacant residence of the Polish Ambassador, and that on
his road trip to Pinar del Rio he was followed for some time
by security, but then they appeared to have dropped off.
5. (C) Szlajfer said he thought there was some "progress"
among the opposition in terms of overall unity and
determination, but noted some continuing divisions. He said
he thought Marta Roque was the "most energetic," but that
some of the others were concerned about her close ties to the
emigre community in Miami, and noted what he interpreted as
some "resentment" among some of the others over the role of
the emigre community. He was most impressed by the
"determination" of the "Ladies in White" group. He said
their situation was difficult not only because of repression,
but also because, he believed, "significant elements" of the
population are not alienated by the regime, and in fact feel
they owe something to Castro. He thought the police were
more brutal than Poland had experienced under communism, and
was struck by the activism of the neighborhood "revolutionary
committees" in monitoring the actions of individuals.
6. (C) The opposition saw two possible scenarios for
post-Castro Cuba. One is a peaceful transition, and he said
he spent "hours" discussing Poland's transition with the
dissidents. They were, in particular, interested in how
Poland handled "reconciliation" with those who participated
in the communist government, and in how Cuba might use such
"reconciliation" as a way forward. Szlajfer said some of the
dissidents saw the alternative as violence "along the Haiti
model," with dramatic bloodshed among "competing caudillos."
7. (C) Poland's policy is to support efforts to bring
democracy to Cuba, and Szlajfer said that the Polish Embassy
will follow Germany's model (Ref B) for its national day on
November 11, inviting the opposition and the government to
two separate events on the same day. The Polish government
knows the Cuban government will not be happy. "Let them
refuse" to come, said Szlajfer.
8. (C) Szlajfer said the opposition asked if Poland could
help organize a real-time video conference with former
President Lech Walesa, who led Poland's Solidarity movement
that sparked Poland's own transition to democracy. Szlajfer
said the Polish government supports the idea and asked if the
U.S. could participate on both ends to make this happen, with
Walesa appearing from the Embassy Warsaw DVC facility and the
Cuban opposition meeting at USINT in Havana for the
conference. He said the Cuban opposition wanted to work with
us to make it clear Walesa was speaking from Poland in order
to convey symbolically the path Poland had taken in its
peaceful transition to democracy.
9. (C) Comment and Action Request: The Poles are strong
supporters of pro-democracy efforts vis a vis Cuba. Jacek
Saryusz-Wolski, one of the Euro-Deputies refused entry in
June, may well become Foreign Minister when the new
government is formed next week, and reflects the attitudes of
others in the incoming center-right coalition government.
Embassy Warsaw would like to work with the Poles make the
video conference happen. We have an in-house DVC facility
which we believe would work for such a program. We stand
ready to move forward and look forward to a response from
USINT or WHA/CCA.