Castro's Man In Washington to Speak At UB March 5

Release Date: February 26, 1999 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The controversial Fernando Remirez de Estenoz Barciela, the first deputy minister of Cuba and chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, will discuss Cuban-American relations at 3 p.m. March 5 in the Screening Room (Room 112) in the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.

The talk, which will be free of charge and open to the public, will be given during a visit to Buffalo sponsored by the UB Office of International Education. Remirez was invited to UB to promote the development of the university's Caribbean Studies Program and the Cuban study-abroad program between UB and the University of Havana, the first such program the Cuban university has had with any American university since the 1959 revolution.

During his visit to Buffalo, Remirez also will meet with Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski, the Buffalo Council on World Affairs and the editorial board of The Buffalo News.

Jose Buscaglia, director of UB's Cuban and Caribbean programs, acknowledges Remirez' controversial past, but calls him a "very personable man and relative young blood who today presents the moderate, amiable face of the Cuban government."

Remirez was Cuban ambassador to Angola in 1986 when Soviet-backed Cuban troops invaded the African nation and were alleged to have employed chemical warfare against the Angolans. Although the Angolan civil war is no longer an issue, Remirez finds himself Castro's somewhat-tainted envoy in a country whose substantial anti-Cuban edifice has been maintained by successive U.S. administrations.

To this day, the United States and Cuba do not have a diplomatic relationship and Remirez has had only mid-level access at the State Department since he arrived in Washington in 1995.

However, there are signs that edifice may be weakening, and Remirez has expressed hope that someday things will change.

"Our two countries are neighbors," he says. "We (in Cuba) think that we must live and work together for the future of Cuban and American generations. The only thing that we demand is the respect of the sovereignty and the independence of Cuba."

Remirez was only eight years old when the Cuban revolution took place in 1959. He grew up to become a physician and social scientist before he began his rise to power through Cuba's Communist Party and diplomatic corps.

Remirez began work in 1976 as secretary of foreign affairs for the Federation of University Students and served as president of the Continental Organization of Latin American Students from 1978-81. He later was appointed head of the International Relations Department of the Young Communist League and a member of its national board of directors.

When he returned from his diplomatic tour of duty in Angola, Remirez was named an official of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, a position he held until 1992, when he was appointed Cuba's first deputy minister of foreign affairs.

He continued to serve as first deputy during a subsequent stint as Cuba's representative to the United Nations from 1994-95, when he was appointed head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington. Since then, Remirez has headed several official Cuban delegations to international events and bilateral visits and has represented Cuban trade-and-diplomatic interests to the American public.

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