Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dancing with dictators

Ever since his surprise election in March 2004, Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has gone out of his way to ensure his Socialist Government maintains "open lines of communications" with the Castro regime.

In other words, let's not upset the old dictator.

One of the first decisions made by the newly-elected administration in Madrid was to reverse the long-standing practice of inviting some Cuban dissidents - along with a host of senior representatives of the regime - to the Spanish embassy in Havana to help celebrate Spanish National Day, on 12 October.

This used to enrage Fidel Castro, who retaliated by barring his ministers and senior officials from attending the celebrations.

Well, no dissident was invited to last year's celebrations, as Castro demanded. The result? A host of senior Cuban ministers, military bigwigs and well-placed Communist Party officials turned up at the embassy to enjoy the jamon serrano, Manchego cheese and vintage Rioja reds on offer.

Alas, it has been a very short-lived engagement.

The Spanish media is all in a tizz today, as you can read here, because this week's party in Havana was snubbed by the regime. No minister turned up and no senior Communist Party representative.

It seems Castro is upset with Zapatero because his deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs had the temerity of organising a quiet meeting with a small group of dissidents during a recent visit to Havana.

Oh, well, that's what happens when you appease dictators.


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