Dominican Republic former leader key in Cuba-US thaw: Listin
Santo Domingo.- In a secret task never officially revealed, former Dominican Republic president Leonel Fernandez mediated in 2010 in what marked the start of the thaw between Cuba and the United States, at president Barack Obama’s behest, outlet listin.com.do reports Friday.
With the consent of the Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro, Fernández visited the prison in Havana where American Alan Gross was being held and whose release Wednesday sealed the deal leading to resumed diplomatic and trade ties between Washington and Havana.
“The visit to Gross lasted about an hour and then President (Fernandez) told him that he was acting for a humanitarian cause, at the request of President Obama, for which he asked him to maintain discretion. It was not a propitious moment to reveal to the world that these talks were underway between the two countries, with third-party mediation,” Listin reports.
“The then Dominican President agreed to the terms of his mediation task directly with President Obama during an official visit to the White House and in which it was agreed that in principle it was confined to the exchange of prisoners, ie, Gross and other Cubans detained for espionage in the United States for over 15 years,” the outlet reports.
It said Fernandez went to prison accompanied y then Dominican Foreign minister the late Carlos Morales Troncoso , and Luis Bogaert, a senior Foreign Ministry official, and the meeting was recorded with photos taken by the Cuban authorities and then provided to the Dominican President, who then sent them to then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to Obama himself.
“By then, the public official information was that Fernandez would go to Havana on July 22, 2010 to give a lecture on "The global financial crisis" at the University of Havana, to meet with professors of the Juan Bosch Chair, and lay a wreath at the monument to José Martí, then culminating in a meeting with President Raul Castro at the Plaza of the Revolution,” the outlet said.
The Dominican president had been on official visits to Havana in September 2006, November 2008, December 2009 and July 2010.
Hillary Clinton was in charge of monitoring the efforts of the Dominican president. “Since secrecy was a key aspect of the talks, Fernandez never revealed the role he was playing.”
“He (Fermadez) had already experienced two conflicting situations: The negotiations to restore relations between Colombia and Venezuela, affected by clashes between Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Hugo Chavez, and later in the crisis following the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, after which the Organization of American States applied sanctions to isolate Honduras.”
“Fernandez had managed to get the ousted president out of Tegucigalpa, who had taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy, and bring to the Dominican Republic as a political exile.”
It adds that In Cuba’s case Fernández had the task of making it clear that the negotiations were limited to mutual release of prisoners of both countries without interpreting that step as a prelude to other concessions and agreements such as the one just announced this week and in which they intervened decisively, Pope Francis and the government of Canada.