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Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal when he proposes to meet the President of Cuba.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the relations of Her Majesty's Government with the Government of Cuba.

My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet the President of the Cuban Council of State. Her Majesty's Government's relations with the Republic of Cuba, which we would like to be more substantial, are constrained because Cuban foreign policy appears to be conducted in concert with the Soviet Union. The Government's current views of some aspects of Soviet foreign policy were clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 January.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he not think that recent events in Afghanistan have perhaps turned President Castro into a Cinderella among the non-aligned nations? Does he not think that, perhaps, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal or my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary could act in this case as a fairy godmother and take the President of Cuba to another ball on the other side of the curtain?

It is true that Cuba voted against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning interference in Afghanistan. The Cuban media have simply reproduced the Soviet statements and comments on events in Afghanistan without attempting any individual interpretation of them.

Will my hon. Friend comment on the increasingly widely held belief that the Government of Cuba are cracking up under the weight of their own oppressiveness?

I was interested to read in today's press that, in a secret speech on 27 December, for which the "Hansard"has only just become available through the auspices of the free press, the President said that 4,000 men had been set aside to weed out offenders and keep them out of the way for as long as necessary. That seems to me to be a sinister sign.

Is the Minister aware that his concern over Cuba would be more credible if he were not such a close associate and fellow traveller of the Fascist regime in Chile, even to the disgraceful extent of questioning whether Dr. Sheila Cassidy had been tortured by the junta?

That does not arise on this question, but the hon. Gentleman is well out of date and he should read the papers.

In the past, when Cuba has had economic crises at home, has that not been an excuse for a diversion in foreign policy, for it to become aggressive and expansionist? Does my hon. Friend feel that that has implications for the Caribbean, and in particular for the remaining dependent territories in that region?

It must be difficult for the Cubans to sustain the 35,000 or so troops that they have in Africa when economic conditions are deteriorating at home. I would have thought that that would hardly be the time to engage in adventures anywhere in the world.

Has the Minister lately taken up the case of Cuban forces in Ethiopia? If so has there been any satisfactory explanation for their presence?

Representations have been made to the Cuban Ambassador on this matter, but to no effect.