Envoy differs from predecessor in style, not substance
BY ANITA SNOW
HAVANA – America’s new top diplomat in Havana dislikes comparisons with his predecessor, the tough-talking former U.S. Interests Section chief whom Fidel Castro called a ”bully” and who donned a pink robe to mock a Cuban cartoon portraying him as a fairy princess.
Even Castro has mentioned the difference, describing Michael Parmly’s correspondence as “respectful.”
Yet Parmly, who has spent much of his career nurturing human rights and democracy in nations recovering from conflict, says he and predecessor James Cason differ only in style.
He said there is no difference at all when it comes to carrying out U.S. policies to promote change in Cuba’s communist society.
He and Cason, who was sworn in last week as the new U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, “just have different styles.”
U.S. policy toward Cuba includes a 44-year-old trade embargo aimed at forcing a change in Castro’s government — something the Cuban leader says will never happen. The policy also includes a 400-page blueprint for American aid to a post-Castro Cuba, a report that communist officials say is a thinly veiled plan for regime change and U.S. occupation of the island.
Parmly, 54, is a career diplomat with 28 years experience in countries that include Romania under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu.
Parmly rejected characterizations of his predecessor’s style as provocative.
During his three years here, Cason undertook a number of bold acts designed to draw attention to Cuba’s rights record, including building a replica of a dissident’s jail in his backyard.
Since Parmly’s arrival, Castro’s only mention of the new envoy was to praise his ”respectful” style when the U.S. government offered to send a disaster assessment team after Hurricane Wilma caused massive flooding in Havana in October. The team never came, amid disagreement over the nature of the trip.