Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reports of Governor Richardson's Visit, Press Conference Video

In Cuba, Richardson says US travel ban should end

Associated Press Writer

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that he's just a governor on a trade mission and carries no message from the U.S. government as he visits Cuba this week. But he does plan to report his impressions to President Barack Obama.

Richardson spoke outside Havana while visiting Ernest Hemingway's former home, where he donated a replica of a telephone used by Hemingway to curators on behalf of his state. He said all U.S. citizens should be able to visit such cultural gems.

"I think enhancing cultural and artistic and educational ties is a prelude to diplomatic and commercial ties. It always happens that way," Richardson told The As
ociated Press.

"I'm for enhanced tourism travel for Americans." Richardson said that travel should go beyond the so-called people-to-people educational and cultural contacts promoted by the Bill Clinton administration.

Richardson insisted he is not in Cuba on Washington's behalf and is not bringing any message from the U.S. government. But he is meeting with senior Cuban officials, including a scheduled encounter Thursday with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and a Monday meeting with Ricardo Alarcon, president of parliament.

So far, everyone has brought up the U.S. embargo and other aspects of U.S. policy, Richardson said, without elaborating.

"I'm not an envoy of the (Obama) administration. I'm carrying no message. I'm here as a governor seeking agricultural trade," he said.

"Obviously I do plan to submit my impressions to the administration after I conclude," he said. "I will do that as a citizen and as a governor. They're my impressions alone."
As a congressman, Richardson secured the release of three Cuban political prisoners during talks with then-President Fidel Castro in Havana in 1996. As U.N. ambassador in 1997, he held talks on terrorism with then-Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina.

Richardson supported Obama's declaration during last year's U.S. presidential campaign that he would be open to meeting current President Raul Castro without preconditions. The governor also has opposed lifting the U.S. embargo, while advocating negotiations with Cuba to promote human rights.

The Obama administration has relaxed restrictions on Cuban Americans' travel and money transfers to family on the island. Most U.S. citizens cannot visit — technically, the U.S. Treasury Department bars them from spending money in Cuba — in tandem with the U.S. embargo imposed in 1962 to weaken Cuba's Communist government.

The U.S. and Cuba also are resuming talks on migration and direct mail, but they have sparred over a U.S. suggestion that Havana release its political prisoners. Cuba insists that any dialogue have no preconditions.

Richardson and state Cabinet officials are promoting exports of New Mexico beef, corn, wheat, potatoes and apples. Despite the embargo, U.S. states can sell agricultural and certain other products to Cuba, though sales on credit are prohibited.

To promote cultural ties, New Mexico will inaugurate an exhibition of Cuban modern art next week.



NM Gov. cheers US, Cuban openness to better ties

By WILL WEISSERT (AP) – 1 hour ago

HAVANA — The U.S. and Cuba need time to reverse nearly a half-century of bad blood, but both sides are more open to doing so than they have been in years, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Friday.

A Democrat and former top U.S. diplomat who knows ex-President Fidel Castro personally, Richardson said that he would like to facilitate dialogue between the communist government and the Cuban-American exile community — but has no interest in being a special U.S. envoy tasked with repairing relations with Cuba.

"There is a good atmosphere. It's the best atmosphere I've seen for an improvement," Richardson told a news conference at the historic Hotel Nacional. "What is needed is concrete steps from both sides. It's very important that we build more confidence in each other before we tackle the bold, divisive issues."

Richardson did not see Fidel or his younger brother, current President Raul Castro, but met twice with Ricardo Alarcon, the head of Cuba's parliament, as well as officials in the Foreign Relations and Tourism Ministries before leaving the island Friday after a four-day visit.

Fidel Castro did send him a note containing a "positive message," however. "He just basically said 'Hello,'" said Richardson, who refused to comment further.

The governor said Washington and Havana aren't ready to discuss lifting the 47-year-old American trade embargo or the release of political prisoners on the island.

Instead, the U.S. government should better solidify President Barack Obama's decision to ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel or send money to Cuba, allow more American business leaders, athletes, artists and academics to come to this country, let Cuban biotechnology products be sold on the U.S. market and permit Cubans to attend scientific and business conferences in the United States.

Cuba should allow its citizens to travel to the U.S. with fewer restrictions and fees, accept Washington's proposal to let diplomats from both countries travel more freely in each other's territories and open a dialogue with Cuban-Americans, Richardson said.

"I did raise these issues with Cuban officials. They are considering some steps," he said.
Richardson said the economic meltdown and the health care debate have distracted U.S. officials, but "the United States needs to pay more attention to the Cuban issue."
"On the Cuban side, I note a lack of flexibility in their positions," he said. "There needs to be reciprocity when one side takes action."

The Obama White House has loosened restrictions on family travel and remittances but suggested it would like to see Cuba respond with small political or economic reforms — calls Havana has ignored.

Richardson said a wild card could be Cuban-Americans, who are divided between support for the U.S. embargo and hopes that the relationship between both countries will improve. He said he "would be happy to broker" dialogue between the Cuban government and Cuban exiles in the U.S.

"This should not be a substitute for government-to-government talks," he said. "But I believe if there is going to be a solution to normalization of the relationship between Cuba and the United States, Cuban-Americans must play a role and will play a role."

The declared purpose of Richardson's visit was to promote trade for his state, but he said he would present a report about the situation in Cuba to Obama administration officials.
As a congressman, Richardson secured the 1996 release of three Cuban political prisoners during talks with Castro in Havana. As U.N. ambassador a year later, he held discussions about terrorism with then Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina.

Obama had tapped Richardson to be his commerce secretary but the governor withdrew his name from consideration amid an investigation into how lucrative New Mexico bond work went to one of his large political donors.

Richardson refused to confirm or comment on reports published Thursday that the U.S. Justice Department will not pursue criminal charges against him, saying only, "I'm not talking about that."


Videos of Richardson press conference




Hará recomendaciones a Obama, informa en La Habana el gobernador estadunidense

Discutió en Cuba plan de acciones recíprocas para normalizar vínculos, dice Bill Richardson

Gerardo Arreola

La Habana, 28 de agosto. El gobernador de Nuevo México, Bill Richardson, informó hoy a la prensa que discutió aquí con autoridades cubanas un plan de acciones recíprocas para normalizar las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba y que reportará su viaje y hará recomendaciones al presidente Barack Obama.

Richardson concluyó una estancia de cinco días en la isla sin hablar con los hermanos Castro, pero dijo que apreció un ambiente muy bueno, el mejor que he visto en muchos años, para arreglar el conflicto de medio siglo y que su viaje fue muy productivo.

Muy cauto y buscando precisión en la mayoría de sus respuestas, el veterano negociador demócrata dijo que vino a Cuba como gobernador de Nuevo México, no como representante de la administración Obama.

Además, subrayó que no es necesario un enviado especial de Washington para Cuba y que no cree que él mismo vaya a tener un papel en el proceso. Es asunto del Departamento de Estado.

Richardson habló dos veces con Ricardo Alarcón, líder del Parlamento, experto en las relaciones con Estados Unidos e integrante del poderoso Buró Político del Partido Comunista.

Formalmente no fueron reuniones entre gobiernos, pero sí el contacto de mayor rango político que hayan tenido ambos países durante la gestión de Obama.

Richardson advirtió que cualquier solución tomará tiempo y será difícil: Cincuenta años de mala relación no se pueden resolver en un año. Pero agregó que Alarcón le dijo que los cubanos están considerando el plan.

El plan consiste en que, antes de entrar a temas de fondo, como el bloqueo económico y la base naval de Guantánamo, las dos naciones tendrían que dar pasos humanitarios: Estados Unidos debería poner en práctica las medidas anunciadas por Obama en abril pasado (como la liberación de viajes y las remesas de los cubanos emigrados), permitir los intercambios deportivos, culturales, científicos, académicos y de negocios, así como los viajes de los estadunidenses a la isla.

Cuba debería eliminar las restricciones burocráticas y las altas tarifas que frenan los viajes de sus ciudadanos a Estados Unidos, aceptar una propuesta de Washington para que tengan mayor movilidad los diplomáticos de ambos países e iniciar un diálogo informal con los cubanoestadunidenses.

Richardson evitó responder directamente a una pregunta sobre quiénes exactamente serían los interlocutores de La Habana entre la emigración cubana en Estados Unidos, pero reconoció que antes de venir a la isla se reunió con sus amigos de esa comunidad que están en la política.

Aceptó que con Alarcón habló de la propuesta cubana de intercambiar opositores presos en la isla por los cinco agentes cubanos encarcelados en Estados Unidos, pero que el énfasis estuvo en los citados pasos humanitarios.

Ahora el problema principal es que Estados Unidos tiene otras prioridades y tendría que prestar más atención a Cuba y América Latina, mientras que en la isla falta flexibilidad y debería haber más reciprocidad hacia las medidas que tome Washington, señaló el gobernador estadunidense.

Indicó que estaba muy satisfecho del alto nivel al que fue recibido aquí (un vicecanciller y otros funcionarios equivalentes, además de Alarcón).

Dijo que de antemano sabía que no hablaría con Raúl o Fidel Castro, pero que el ex mandatario le hizo llegar el jueves por la noche un mensaje personal.


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