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Viewing cable 08HAVANA66, COMSEC DISCUSSES FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY WITH CUBAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08HAVANA66 2008-01-18 16:04 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0066/01 0181613
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY AD4E5483 MSI9413-695)
O 181613Z JAN 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2740
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS IMMEDIATE
RUCOGCA/NAVSTA GUANTANAMO BAY CU IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000066 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

C O R R E C T E D COPY SECSTATE DELETED AS INFO ADDEE 

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA; NSC FOR DAN FISK 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017 
TAGS: CU PGOV PHUM PINR PREL
SUBJECT: COMSEC DISCUSSES FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY WITH CUBAN 
YOUTH 

Classified By: COM: Michael E. Parmly: For reasons 1.4 b/d 

1. (C) SUMMARY: On 14 January Commerce Secretary 
Gutierrez spoke by video conference with 10 representatives 
of Cuban youth organizations. The participants discussed 
their desires for democracy and freedom. They also spoke 
about the prospects of achieving a democratic transition in 
Cuba and the image of the United States. Four current 
university students who were expected to participate in the 
conference never appeared at the US Interest Section in 
Havana for reasons that are yet to be discovered. One of the 
participants stated that after the event State Security 
officials questioned him about his participation in the 
conference. End Summary. 


2. (C) SECCOM Gutierrez engaged in a dialogue with 
XXXXXXXXXXXX  Four  university students, whose
participation was coordinated by  Raul Capote Hernandez,
never appeared. USINT is still trying  to discover the reason
why they did not show up. 

3. (C) The participants spoke of their desire for freedom 
and democracy as well as the Cuban people's wish for 
improvements in their standard of living. XXXXXXXXXXXX
described the  farcical atmosphere of a meeting in his neighbourhood
where  government officials in the runup to the elections scheduled 
for January 20 instructed people that they could mark up the 
ballot in any way they choose and it would be counted unless 
they wrote something like "Down with Fidel" on it. The 
participants would like to have real options in a range of 
things from the candidates in elections to the food they can 
purchase. 

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX ,however, made it clear that 
dissidents can't speak for the entire Cuban people. In a 
subsequent discussion with POL officer, she elaborated that 
it would be a mistake to underestimate the effectiveness of 
GOC propaganda and the support the government has especially 
in poor communities and with some groups of University 
students. During the conference, XXXXXXXXXXXX 
described how it is clear that senior state security 
officials are well aware of how they are manipulating 
information, but many of the young security agents actually 
believe that dissidents are potential terrorists. XXXXXXXXXXXX
 told  POL officer that many people, especially outside Havana,
are  convinced that dissidents are being paid to plot terrorist 
acts and sabotage. Rodriguez del Toro, Sanchez and Juan 
Carlos Hernandez are from Santiago de Cuba. They were all 
involved in a widely publicized incident in December 2007 
where police beat protesters on the grounds of a church in 
Santiago. 

5. (C) In the conference, XXXXXXXXXXXX responded to 
questions about the attitude of the Cuban people toward the 
United States. She stated that years ago people tended to 
view both the government and the people of the United States 
as hostile towards Cuba. However, she now feels that even 
those who are suspicious of the Bush Administration, tend to 
have much more positive feelings toward the American people. 
She credits this to increased contact with actual Americans. 
Some participants mentioned the confusion over the role of 
the Committee for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC). They 
alluded to the GOC's propaganda campaign and a notorious 
billboard that reads "Plan Bush: No More Morning Kiss" with a 
drawing of a mother not allowed to kiss her children as they 
head off for school. XXXXXXXXXXXX reiterated to Pol 
officer that even if GOC propaganda seems preposterous, it is 
effective with large segments of the population which have 
with little access to alternative information. 

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also stated that often university 
students are afraid to speak to them although there is 
widespread support for the petition drive organized by 
E 

XXXXXXXXXXXX Frontiers to demand the opening  of
private universities. She said that now almost all of the 
organization's contact with university students is through 
third parties. She spoke of how after widespread protests in 
September, university students in Santiago de Cuba felt 
emboldened because they achieved some improvements in their 
living conditions. However, protest activity has died down 
because students are afraid of expulsion. She indicated that 
there is still widespread discontent on campus on account of 
the dilapidated dormitories, the poor food, and the presence 
of many unqualified professors. A particular sore spot is 
the considerably better food and lodging provided to the 
foreign students. She said that Cuban students are not even 
allowed to visit the dormitories of foreign students.
XXXXXXXXXXXX often points out that the regime is well
aware that all of the significant revolutions in Cuban 
history started with student movements and that the GOC
keeps  a close watch on what happens in the universities. 


6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that on 15 January two
plainclothes  agents from state security came to his Havana
home and said  that they knew he had participated in a video
conference with  SECCOM and wanted the names of the
other participants. XXXXXXXXXXXX  stated that he was
told to appear in court on 21 January but  will not do so unless
he receives an official written  citation. All of the other
participants state that after the  video conference they have not
been contacted to the police  or GOC officials. Rodriguez del
Toro said that she expects  that all the members of her group
will be detained as soon as  they arrive back in Santiago. 

PARMLY