By JOHN RICE, Associated Press Writer
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Cuba has won approval for a draft resolution at the 21-nation Ibero-American Summit condemning a Panamanian pardon for four men accused of trying to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro (news - web sites) at a meeting four years ago.
Foreign ministers or ranking diplomats from Spain, Portugal and 19 Latin American nations spent Thursday polishing a declaration for their leaders to endorse when the summit itself gets under way late Friday.
Most of the declaration is a non-controversial call for greater funding and emphasis on education throughout the region. It says that multilateral lending organizations should let poor countries pay off part of their debts by expanding spending on education.
The biggest sticking point came over a Cuban call to criticize former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso for the pardon in August of four Cuban exiles who had been accused of plotting to kill Castro at the 2000 Ibero-American Summit in Panama. It also criticized the United States for taking in three of the men.
The measure was approved unanimously, but only after extensive editing of the harsh original language, said Costa Rican Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar, the meeting’s host and spokesman.
“I would say it’s more a matter of wording than of meaning,” he said.
Tovar said the text presented to the presidents Friday calls the pardons incompatible with the fight against terrorism.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque called it “an important result” and said “Cuba feels satisfied.”
Even many of Castro’s critics in the region expressed outrage at Moscoso’s pardon, just six days before her term ended, of the group led by former CIA (news - web sites) operative Luis Posada. It led Cuba to break relations with Panama.
Posada still faces charges in Venezuela of blowing up a civilian airliner in 1976, killing 73 people. Cuban officials say he and the other three men have been involved in other bombings and assassination attempts.
The summit’s “Declaration of San Jose” also reaffirms the community’s condemnation of a U.S. law that punishes foreign companies doing business in Cuba.
At least 16 heads of government are due to arrive at the summit.
Castro is missing because of a broken knee and arm. Chile’s Ricardo Lagos and Peru’s Alejandro Toledo are staying home to prepare for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (news - web sites) summit. Portugal’s Jorge Sampaio is ill, and Brazil’s Inacio Lula da Silva was was hosting a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin.