Thursday, February 26, 2009

France Sends High Ranking Envoy

Raúl welcomes special French envoy

Looking très chic in a dark, tieless shirt, Raúl Castro on Wednesday met for more than two hours with a similarly tieless and tanned La2 Jack Mathieu Émile Lang, émissaire spécial of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Lang, a Socialist deputy and former culture and education minister, heads the French National Assembly's foreign affairs commission.

Speaking to reporters later, Lang said that Paris wishes to be "the engine" of a dialogue between Cuba and Europe and contribute to a greater insertion of the island in the international community, the Mexican agency Notimex reported. Lang also said Paris would like to help improve relations between Havana and Washington. Those relations should be "direct, simple and based on the economy, politics and culture," always on the basis of mutual respect.

Even if President Obama cannot lift the trade embargo, he "could take some measures of change toward Cuba," Lang said. "How are we to understand that [the U.S.] still maintains Cuba on the list of terrorist countries?" Sarkozy's envoy said that his impression is that Raúl Castro "is interested in a dialogue with France, in an orderly manner and within the bounds of the existing relationships." France, he added, "is among the countries in the European Union that desire an unconditional dialogue with Cuba." Asked about Washington's recent criticism of the human rights situation in Cuba, Lang answered: "It is not up to one country to become the world's tribunal." Lang, who delivered to Castro a letter from Sarkozy, expects to remain in Cuba until Monday.

---Renato Pérez Pizarro.