Former Spanish leader blasts his nation’s coziness with Cuba, Venezuela

Posted on Wed, Mar. 16, 2005
BY OSCAR CORRAL
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Former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar said Wednesday that his country’s government was practicing ‘‘irresponsible’’ foreign policy, citing the coziness Spain is fostering with Cuba and Venezuela.

Aznar said that under his administration, Spain stood proudly with the two strongest democracies in the world, the United States and Great Britain. And now, he said, Spain stands with Cuba and Venezuela, countries he called bedfellows in exporting trouble throughout Latin America.

Aznar made his statements in a meeting with the Herald’s editorial board Wednesday morning.

‘‘I was in Mexico last week, and I told them you and I have a right to be free, why deny that right to Cubans?’’ Aznar said. ``I’ll keep saying it all the time, I don’t care if Castro insults me every day.’‘

He said he finds the close alliance between Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez troubling because they seem to be exporting trouble to Latin American countries such as Colombia and Bolivia.

He said Spain and the European Union should not forge closer ties to Cuba because only Cuba will benefit, and nothing will change while Castro is in power. Aznar distanced Spain diplomatically from Cuba after Castro’s government jailed 75 dissidents in 2003.

He said he supported Cuban dissidents who are planning an assembly to promote civil society in Cuba May 20, but joked that he wasn’t planning on attending because he didn’t think the Cuban government would be very welcoming.

In other remarks, Aznar said the new Spanish government, which beat his party last year just days after the March 11 railroad bombing, has not been able to answer key questions about the bombing. He said Spain remains vulnerable to terrorism.

‘‘We still don’t know who ordered the bombing, who mounted the bombs on the trains, who bought the explosives,’’ Aznar said. ``There are countries that owe information to Spain.’‘

Aznar did not give details, but said Spain needed to continue to investigate the bombing, no matter what country it might lead to.