http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/cuba_applies_first_major_anti_europe_measure_takes_over_spanish_embassy_cul/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Cuba applies first major anti-Europe measure, takes over Spanish Embassy’s Cultural Center

Posted June 16, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA, June 14 — Fidel Castro’s communist government took its first major step in its anti-Europe campaign Saturday, taking control of the Spanish Embassy’s cultural center — a showcase of Iberian tradition Havana says was used to nurture the opposition.

The Foreign Ministry announcement came two days after Castro led hundreds of thousands of people on marches outside the Spanish and Italian embassies in the capital to protest European alignment with U.S. policies supporting pro-democracy dissidents.

Havana was responding to the 15-member European Union’s announcement last week that it would review its relations with the island after a crackdown on the opposition and the firing-squad executions of three men who tried to hijack a ferry to South Florida.

A government statement Saturday said Cuba was canceling its agreement with the Spanish Embassy, first signed in 1995 and renewed in September, to operate the cultural center in a renovated historic building facing the ocean in the capital’s Old Havana district.
    Cuban authorities told Spanish officials of the decision Friday, giving them 90 days to relinquish control of the two-story building, owned by the Cuban government.
    ‘‘The accord signed by both countries said that the center would be created to promote the best values of Spanish culture based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and nonintervention in Cuba’s internal affairs,’’ the Foreign Ministry said.
    ‘‘Far from promoting Spanish culture in our country the reason it was created it has maintained a program of activities unrelated to its original function, in open challenge of Cuban laws and institutions,’’ the statement added.
    ‘‘Under Cuban administration, the center will be completely dedicated to promote the best values of the Spanish culture in our country,’’ it said.
    The center was operating normally Saturday morning, but there were no officials present authorized to comment on Cuba’s announcement. The Spanish Embassy nearby was closed for the weekend and diplomats were unavailable. In Madrid, the Spanish government also said it had no comment.
    Inside the center, an exhibit of Iberian design was on display, with objects including plates, jewelry and lamps. In one workshop, Spanish graphics artist Isidro Ferrer was teaching a class to his Cuban counterparts.
    Ferrer, who was flying back to Madrid later Saturday, said it was unfortunate the center had become the focus of a political battle. ‘‘Cultural should not be at the service of politics,’’ Ferrer said.
    Foreign Ministry did not provide details about how the center allegedly was being used to violate Cuba’s internal affairs. But on Wednesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque accused the Spanish government’’ of funding opposition groups.
    The center was inaugurated amid much fanfare in 1997 in the century-old building known as the Palacio de las Cariatides on the eastern end of the Malecon coastal highway.
    It houses a large salon for receptions, along with a library of Spanish books and an archive of phonograph records. Exhibits, workshops, lectures and other cultural events are regularly held there.
    Over the years, the center was visited by many well-known Spanish cultural figures, including filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and writer Manuel Vazquez Montablan, along with Cuban artists such as writer Miguel Barnet and composer Leo Brouwer.

Member Comments

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