Raul Castro’s Son Alejandro Led the Secret Negotiations with the US

Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, head of the National Security and Defense Commission.

By Cafe Fuerte

HAVANA TIMES – Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, the son of President Raul Castro, was officially the representative of Cuba in the secret negotiation process with the United States that ended with the agreement to open a new stage of bilateral relations, on December 17, 2014, Cardinal Jaime Ortega has just revealed.

The date chosen had nothing to do with the celebration of St. Lazarus Day, as many thought, or other political reasons, but was because it was the birthday of Pope Francis, who had played  a key role in promoting negotiations between the Castro and Obama administrations.

The revelations of these details were just published for the first time by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, former archbishop of Havana, in an article appearing in the Catholic Church journal Espacio Laical. The basis of the text is a conference that Ortega dictated last September in New York at an event sponsored by the Concordia organization.

Extraordinary possibility

In a detailed account of the steps that led to the rapprochement between Raul Castro and Barack Obama, with the mediation of the Catholic Church, Ortega mentions that Alejandro Castro led the secret talks for Cuba with the United States that were held in 2013 and 2014, and his counterpart was Ricardo Zúñiga, White House adviser for Latin America and principal director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“Not only did I have the extraordinary possibility of being a bearer of a letter from the Pope to each of the presidents, but also of knowing and transmitting to each of them the oral message that the other sent,” wrote the Cardinal, who retired last year. “For me this was one of the great moments of my priestly life; Because I was able to see that dialogue and rapprochement are always possible, and that is what my Christian faith always inspired in my ministry as Pastor.”

Barack Obama greets Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana on March 21, 2016.

Being archbishop of Havana. The Cardinal served as emissary of the Pope to finally raise the “anchor of the past” between the two countries.
Ortega announced that he is preparing a book that describes in detail the negotiation process that involved him as a protagonist.
Confirmation of the role played by Alejandro Castro Espin, 51, in the process that started the thaw between Havana and Washington, positions the Colonel for a leading role in future government tasks.

Castro Espin participated in the first meeting held by Castro and Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama in 2015, serving as the head of Cuba’s National Commission for Security and Defense, although at that time his role in secret bilateral negotiations –which lasted 18 months – was unknown.

So as not to arouse suspicion

Cardinal Ortega also reveals how he had to mask a visit to the White House to meet with Obama, on August 17, 2014, with an oral message from Raul Castro. In coordination with Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, Ortega’s assistance was planned for a forum at the Catholic University of Georgetown to avoid arousing suspicion. The White House did not want any publicity about Ortega’s meeting with Obama.

As key figures to begin negotiations between the two sides, Ortega mentions Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, then pro tempore president of the Senate, and analyst and political scientist Julia Sweig, who was the bearer of a message from Leahy with his suggestion that Pope Francisco “enter the scene” for a probable rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.

One year ago, when Obama visited Cuba, one of his first encounters after his arrival in the country was with Cardinal Ortega, who received him in the Havana Cathedral.

To read the full text of Cardinal Ortega’s article in Spanish, click here

8 thoughts on “Raul Castro’s Son Alejandro Led the Secret Negotiations with the US

  • March 25, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    Get ready for Castro 2.0 thanks to the bad US/Cuba deal Obama pushed!

    Reply
    • March 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm
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      I’m not quite so pessimistic. Fidel is dead, Raúl is close to joining his brother and the Cuban economy is worse than ever, except for the Special Period. As a result, the “Castro 2.0” that you have predicted will be less potent. Castroism is on its last leg.

      Reply
      • March 26, 2017 at 5:54 am
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        With critics like Humberto and Moses, who have helped power the Castros for decades with their biased extremism, “Castroism” might somehow survive for another six decades or so. As alternatives to Batista and the Mafia as well as the transplanted Batistianos and Mafiosi, even the Castros apparently have been preferred by enough Cubans on the island. That’s a fact and hurdle that normally unchecked anti-Castro propagandists off the island simply cannot get over or past. Thus, Moses and Humberto ignore reality, which is that the Castro Revolution actually won and, moreover, has actually survived for half-a-century and counting against extremely overwhelming odds. But the BIGGEST ASSET the Castro ever had has been and remains their enemies.

        Now Humberto, Moses…after the obligatory “Commie” accusation against those who disagree with y’all’s views…a ploy, I assume, to enhance your “patriotism”…why not try to rationale some facts and then actually explain to us why the brutal & thieving Batista-Mafia rule of Cuba that preceded the Castros was not exactly the benevolent dictatorship that y’all’s propaganda pretends or implies it to be. When I was in Cuba I talked to anti-Castro Cubans who were far more adamantly anti-Batista and anti-Mafia. To ignore that fact is to ignore why the Castro-rule of Cuba may even outlast the death of Raul, whose only two brothers died at ages 91 and 90 in 2016.

        Reply
        • March 26, 2017 at 11:46 pm
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          I make no pretense for/against the dictatorship that was defeated by the Castros. I am adamantly PRO-democracy so I suppose that means I would have opposed the Batista rule. I would make no such charge against you or anyone else that supports the Castro regime by accusing you of being communists. The Castros are totalitarian socialists. Finally, if opposing the Castros by criticizing their tyranny has “powered” their rule, then call me a nuclear power plant.

          Reply
        • April 20, 2017 at 7:43 am
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          The Batista argument is getting very old. Yes Batista was awful. But he was in power for less than 10 years. Castros have been oppressing Cubans for nearly 60 years. How about a liberal Democracy in Cuba? How about freedom of speech? Religion? Democracy? The biggest asset the Castros have are the “useful idiots” who think what they have done in Cuba is swell.

          Reply
      • March 26, 2017 at 3:39 pm
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        I really hope this is true.

        Reply
      • March 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm
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        I did not say that they will succeed, but they will try after a few years with Miguel Díaz-Canel at the helm if it gets that far! Or maybe they will push Mariela Castro as a softer, female version. The Trump Effect has not been figured into this equation yet! Let’s see how that will influence things!

        Reply
  • March 30, 2017 at 2:33 pm
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    Obama’s lead hand in the negotiations was Ben Rhodes, who admitted he knew almost nothing about Cuban history and Cuban-American relations. Rhodes described the first few meetings as “real learning sessions” for him. No doubt Castro the Younger lectured Rhodes on Cuban history from the Castro propaganda playbook. Is it any wonder the deal turned out to be a lopsided series of concessions the the Castro regime with no improvements in the human rights of the Cuban people?

    Humberto’s prediction is the most likely scenario: Diaz-Canel as the public face of the post-Castro regime, while Alejandro controls the real power from the backroom.

    I hope Moses is correct, the regime won’t last without the mystique of Fidel & Raul. By reputation, Alejandro doesn’t have the charisma of his uncle Fidel. But he does have his ruthlessness and brute force still matters.

    Reply

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