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Diplomatic posting indicates Cuba does not expect better relations with the US.

WASHINGTON -- Reflecting the deteriorating relations between Fidel Castro's government and the Bush administration, Havana has called home the high-profile head of its diplomatic mission in Washington.

Fernando Remirez, Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, headed the mission since 1995, representing Cuba in Washington through some crises such as the 1996 shoot down of Cuban exile flyers by Cuban forces and the Elian Gonzalez saga.

At the end of July, Remirez will be replaced by Dagoberto Rodriguez, previously the No. 3 diplomat at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Remirez, who was much more active than his predecessors, arrived in Washington with an impressive resume. Not only was he a high-ranking official in Cuba's Foreign Ministry - a position he continued to hold during his posting in Washington - but he also served as Cuba's representative at the United Nations, replacing Ricardo Alarcon, currently the head of Cuba's national assembly. Although the United States and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations, both countries maintain offices accredited to the Swiss embassy in each others capitals.

Under Remirez's direction, the Cuban Interests Section reached out aggressively to Cuban exiles and American businessmen. Remirez and his top aides toured the United States speaking at local Chambers of Commerce and universities. His trips to Miami scandalized anti-Castro exiles who demanded, unsuccessfully, that the Clinton administration restrict Remirez's travels.

During his years in Washington, Remirez also oversaw the most active exchange of Cuban and American cultural and academic figures since the early days of the Cuban Revolution.

Rodriguez, who is in his forties, is known as hardworking and loyal. He's been in Washington for years, focusing on Congress and legislation that relates to the embargo.

Rodriguez was sent back to Havana in 1999 to head the office of North American Affairs in Cuba's foreign ministry. But he lacks Remirez's credentials and is unlikely to have much influence in Havana. One of his duties has been to act as liaison between the Cuban government and US groups who seek an end to the embargo or are otherwise sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution.

Cuban Interest Section spokesman Luis Fernandez said the decision to place a lower-ranking diplomat in Washington reflected the new reality in US-Cuban relations and Havana's doubt that the Bush administration has the will to break what he called a "stalemate."

Wayne Smith, former head of the US Interests Section in Havana and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, echoed the sentiment. "It's a recognition on the part of the Cubans that the relationship isn't going anywhere," Smith said.
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Title Annotation:head of diplomatic corps in United States Fernando Remirez is reassigned to post in Cuba
Publication:America's Insider
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Jul 12, 2001
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