Noriega: no major shift in Cuban refugee policy

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Thu Aug 7 18:48:27 MDT 2003

(This IS important because it shows
that the US has decided now that it
definitely does NOT want a Cuban
migration crisis. This is a significant
change from its behavior just a few
short months ago. Time will tell how
serious this is, but it does appear to
be serious at the moment, and that
is a good thing.

(Read this new information through
carefully, noting the declaration of
support for Argentina's Kirchner.
that's quite a change from their
sending a flunkey to Kirchner's
inauguration where Fidel Castro
was the biggest star of the day.

(And notice them deploying Reich
and Fisk in an attempt to shore up
support among the rightist exiles.)

Posted on Wed, Aug. 06, 2003

U.S. Latin policy chief suggests
no major shift in Cuban refugee policy,
plans Argentina visit
aoppenheimer at

Suggesting that the Bush administration is unlikely to make
major changes in its Cuban refugee policy, new State
Department chief of Latin American affairs Roger F. Noriega
said Wednesday that any dramatic policy shift could invite a
massive stampede from the island and a humanitarian tragedy.

Noriega, a Kansas-born diplomat of Mexican descent who last
week took office as the first Senate-confirmed assistant
secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs since
1999, also said in a wide-ranging interview with The Herald
that his first official trip will be to Argentina, as a way
to signal U.S. support for that country's new government.

He added that one of his top priorities will also be to
create a bipartisan, bicameral group in the U.S. Congress to
help set the U.S. agenda toward Latin America and make it
easier for the Bush administration to implement it.

''I intend to reach out to folks across the aisle, in both
houses, to coordinate our efforts in promoting that
bipartisan agenda for the Americas,'' he said.

Asked about the Bush refugee policy, which has come under
attack from Cuban exiles who say Washington should stop
repatriating would-be refugees following the execution in
Cuba of three people who had hijacked a vessel to flee the
island this spring, Noriega stressed that ``we remain
committed to safe, orderly and legal migration with Cuba.''

''Any decision on our part that would lead to a dramatic
outflow of people from Cuba, that would lead people to
believe that we are somehow suspending our immigration
laws, would invite a real tragedy,'' he said. ``Cubans would
conceivably try extraordinarily dangerous crossings.''

But Noriega qualified that statement by saying that while
the Bush administration does not contemplate changing the
so-called dry foot/wet foot policy, under which only Cubans
stopped at sea are repatriated, ``in light of the conduct of
the Cuban dictatorship, it is not unfair to ask some of the
questions that [exiles] are asking.''

''I am not signaling any significant change in the policy,
but we are constantly evaluating these issues,'' he said.

On other Cuba issues, Noriega said he intends to
''modernize'' the U.S. Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba
through new ways of overcoming the Cuban government's
jamming, and to find ways of sending videotapes and
publications to the island.

On Wednesday, several top Bush administration officials --
including President Bush's Special Envoy to the Americas
Otto J. Reich and State Department Cuba specialist Dan
Fisk -- were in Miami consulting with Cuban exile leaders
about ways of speeding the flow of information into the
island, Noriega said.

''We have already undertaken steps to modernize the Martí
broadcasting system,'' he said, adding that the State
Department is evaluating the effectiveness of an aircraft
that was used to broadcast a message from Bush to the island
on May 20. ``But there is more than one way to get audio and
videos and printed material to the island -- including using
regular mail.''

Noriega said he plans to make his trip to Argentina in the
third week of August. From there, he will go to Uruguay and
Paraguay on his way back home, he said.

''It's very important for the United States to underscore
our commitment to working with Argentines for the political
and economic renewal of that country,'' Noriega said.
``President [Néstor] Kirchner has made impressive progress
working toward that agenda.''

Many Argentines feel defrauded by the country's 2002
economic collapse after more than a decade of following
U.S.-backed economic policies.

Kirchner capitalized on this sentiment by refusing to meet
with the U.S. ambassador to Argentina during his electoral
campaign earlier this year. Kirchner promised to depart from
his country's previous ''automatic alignment'' with the
United States, while vowing to maintain a ''mature''
relationship with Washington.

''It is very important not only for Argentina, but also to
the rest of the hemisphere, that they see that the United
States is committed to Argentina's complete economic and
political renewal,'' Noriega said.

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