CLIMATE CHANGE PROVIDES GOC WITH MUCH NEEDED DISTRACTION

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10HAVANA11 7 January 2010 Confidencial United States Interest Section in Havana

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VZCZCXRO2801
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHUB #0011/01 0071848
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071848Z JAN 10
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5075
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 000011

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR OES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/06/2020
TAGS: SENV, PGOV, ECON, PREL, CU
SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE PROVIDES GOC WITH MUCH NEEDED
DISTRACTION

REF: A. HAVANA 168 ("CUBA WEIGHS IN ON CAPITALISTS
CRISIS")
B. HAVANA 763 (NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SESSION)
C. HAVANA 736 ("HUMAN RIGHTS DAY TURNS VIOLENT")

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Classified By: Principal Officer Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) an
d (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Government of Cuba (GOC) used the UN
Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to distract attention
from problems within Cuba and ferociously vent against the
United States and, in particular, President Obama. While
some elements within the GOC are legitimately concerned about
the environment, the harsh and well orchestrated response was
pure political posturing. Like the world financial crisis
before it (ref A), climate change provides a perfect platform
for the GOC to join its ALBA friends to decry capitalism and
blame the West for all of the world’s ills. At the heart of
Cuba’s complaints was not the substance of the Copenhagen
Accord but rather the process, in particular the fact that
Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not involved in the
negotiations. Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba’s
mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC
are actually serious about climate change. END SUMMARY.

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL BATTLE IN HUMAN HISTORY


---------

2. (SBU) Communist Party leader and former President Fidel
Castro has mentioned or focused on the Copenhagen Conference
and the role of the United States in nearly every one of his
"Reflection" articles since September 2009. Previously,
Fidel had only sporadically written on climate change,
although he has been obsessed with President Obama since the
2008 elections. Fidel began to hint that the Copenhagen
Summit would fail after an ALBA Summit held in Bolivia in
mid-October and by early November, he was openly predicting
failure. In a December 14 message to Venezuelan President
Chavez following an ALBA summit held in Havana, Fidel wrote
that Copenhagen represented "the most important political
battle of human history." On December 17, Fidel quoted
extensively from speeches by Chavez and Bolivian President
Morales at the conference while criticizing a planned meeting
between President Obama and twenty-plus countries scheduled
for the following day.

3. (SBU) Following the conference, Fidel wrote three
straight Reflections devoted to attacking President Obama’s
participation in Copenhagen. Fidel called President Obama’s
conference remarks "deceitful, demagogic and ambiguous." In
a January 3 Reflection, Fidel claimed "the yanki president,
Barack Obama, and a group of the richest states on the
planet, resolved to dismantle the binding commitments of
Kyoto." This is in sharp contrast to his mid-September
Reflection that one of President Obama’s two positive
features was his concern for climate change (concern for
health care was the other).

FOREIGN MINISTER ACTS OUT FIDEL’S REFLECTIONS


4. (SBU) Fidel wrote on December 19, as if he were still in
charge of the country, that Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez
would explain in a press conference upon his return from
Copenhagen "the truth" of what happened. Like a good
soldier, the otherwise calm FM Rodriguez blamed President
Obama in a December 21 press conference for the "failure" of
the climate conference. Rodriguez said "at the summit, there
was only imperial, arrogant Obama, who does not listen, who
imposes his positions and even threatens developing
countries." Rodriguez accused President Obama of maintaining
the same position that had prevented the United States from
ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Rodriguez claimed President
Obama knew he was lying when he said he was confident an
agreement would be reached after the President departed but
before the end of the conference. In addition to President
Obama, Rodriguez also targeted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown
for allegedly trying to blackmail countries into accepting

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the Copenhagen Accord. This was only his fourth press
conference since becoming Foreign Minister following one on
the U.S. embargo in September 2009, the situation in Honduras
in June, and a meeting with EU commissioner Luis Michel in
March of that same year.

WHY SO ANGRY?


5. (SBU) At the heart of Cuba’s complaints was not the
substance of the Copenhagen Accord but rather the process, in
particular the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not
involved in the negotiations. The GOC has reported hourly
details of how the events unfolded from President Obama’s
arrival and departure to the eventual departure of the Cuban
delegation, highlighting Obama’s short visit and meetings
with "selected" countries. Rodriguez labeled the conference
an "antidemocratic, exclusionary, arbitrary farce." The GOC
detailed the efforts of presidents Chavez and Morales to
defend ALBA’s position and not accept any agreement that did
not place all the responsibility on the developed nations,
including repayment of a massive "climate debt" to developing
nations.

IDEOLOGUES TRUMP SCIENTISTS


6. (C) A British diplomat told us that there are in fact
moderates in the Cuban government that were interested in
negotiating a productive agreement for the sake of the
environment. Cuba’s position was apparently still up in the
air until the ALBA summit in Havana when hardliners in the
government took over the issue. Our contact told us, "the
moderates had nothing to offer; the hardliners had Chavez and
his oil."

USEFUL DOMESTIC DISTRACTION


7. (SBU) Copenhagen also provided the international media
with a distraction from the fruitless domestic meetings
taking place at the same time within Cuba. In the midst of
Fidel’s and Bruno’s outbursts, current President Raul Castro
barely mentioned the conference in his December 20 speech to
the National Assembly, and what he did say had a more
diplomatic and reflective tone. Raul did not mention
President Obama at any time in his speech. He lamented that
the climate change conference ended without "tangible
results", but focused on what Cuba was doing to improve its
water supply, to encourage the planting of trees, to teach
new generations about nature, and to plan for coastal dangers
and vulnerabilities for the years 2050-2100. The rest of the
National Assembly was a significant disappointment with the
only sound bites coming from Raul Castro’s own U.S. bashing
regarding the December arrest of an Amcit and USINT efforts
to monitor Human Rights Day activities (Ref B).

8. (C) Another common theme in Fidel’s Reflections, Foreign
Minister Rodriguez’s press conference and the official press
was the "brutality of the Danish police force against
thousands of protesters and invitees," all stated without any
sense of irony. One western diplomat commented that the
events in Copenhagen provided the perfect diversion from the
GOC’s own repressive actions on Human Rights Day December 10
(Ref C).

CUBA’S SELF-INTEREST IN CLIMATE CHANGE


9. (C) Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba’s
mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC
are actually serious about climate change. An international
journalist who follows environmental issues in Cuba told us
that within the GOC there is much interest in climate change
and a willingness to adapt and implement measures to combat
the effects. This is partly due to Cuba’s vulnerability to
rising temperatures and sea levels, most notably the
potential flooding of an area with great biodiversity on the

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southwest coast (Zapata Swamp). She said the GOC includes
environmental considerations in all national development
plans. The British diplomat told us that a month before the
Copenhagen conference a group of British experts visited Cuba
and had "serious" discussions with Cuban officials about
exploring options for alternative energy. He said the Cubans
are desperate for diversifying energy sources, but lack the
necessary funding and technology.

10. (SBU) The UN Development Program has a $25.5 million
program in Cuba for 2008-2012 focused on climate change and
sustainable energy. Projects include supporting conservation
and biodiversity, implementing sustainable agriculture, and
promoting the safe management of the bays in Havana and
Cienfuegos. The GOC also constructively participates in
regional UN projects, including hosting UN Environment
Program workshops and providing (EU-funded) technical
assistance to other Caribbean countries like Haiti.

11. (C) Several U.S. environmental groups, like the
Environmental Defense Fund, have close relationships with
Cuban officials in the Ministry of Environment, Science and
Technology. These NGOs provide some technical assistance,
but tell us that they are not allowed to pursue their own
projects but rather are limited to respond to GOC requests.
In particular, any research or work related to Cuba’s oil
refineries and nickel plants is strictly off limits. The
international journalist who most closely follows the nickel
sector told us that the area around the nickel mines in Moa,
Holguin consistently reports the sickest population in Cuba.
One Cuban-American energy expert told us that oil production,
refining, and electricity generation facilities in Cuba are
generations behind U.S. and international environmental
standards. Independent economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe
countered in response to the GOC outbursts following
Copenhagen that Cuban authorities were in no position to
judge due to Cuba’s disastrous treatment of its land, water,
air and biodiversity. Espinosa Chepe then used official
Cuban statistics to support his claim.

COMMENT


12. (C) Climate change is Fidel Castro’s latest pet project
in which poor, socialist countries are the victims and rich,
capitalist countries are entirely to blame. Climate change
provides Fidel the perfect opportunity to play statesman with
little risk to his brother’s credibility at home. FM
Rodriguez’ fiery remarks during his December 21 press
conference were out of character and resembled past Fidel
Castro speeches. Some element of the GOC may see climate
change as a legitimate concern, but the view from the top is
that of a political propaganda goldmine.
FARRAR