Rice Chides Spain on Cuba; Democracy Now, She Says

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BERLIN - The United States and Spain clashed yesterday over how to bring democracy to Cuba, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice advocating regime change and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos insisting that engagement with the communist government would produce better results.

Just before the two top diplomats met in Madrid, Havana held rare talks on human rights with a Spanish delegation that it reportedly took to Cuban prisons.

But Miss Rice questioned the effectiveness of such visits to the island nation, criticizing Spain as cozying up to Fidel Castro's regime.

"I have real doubts about the value of engagement with a regime that is anti-democratic and that appears to me to be trying to arrange a transition from one anti-democratic regime to the next anti-democratic regime," she said at a press conference with Mr. Moratinos.

"What is needed in Cuba is structural change. ... There has to be a transition to a democratically elected government," she said "Spain has a

differentview of how to get to a democratic Cuba"

Mr. Moratinos countered that engaging the Castro regime is much more effective than isolating it. He said the Spanish Embassy in Havana has regular contact with political dissidents and has helped free some from detention.

"I'm sure that after some time goes by, [Miss Rice] will probably be more convinced that the Spanish approach can have its results," he said.

But the secretary silently mouthed what appeared to be the phrase, "don't hold your breath."

Miss Rice stopped in Madrid for several hours at the end of a trip to Germany and Austria. It marked her first visit there as secretary of state and was an effort to mend fences since the decision by Spain's current Socialist government to withdraw its troops from Iraq in 2004 after a public disagreement with the Bush administration's policy.

But in addition to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, she met with the head of Spain's conservative opposition - a rare move by Washington's chief diplomat. …