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Cuba Criticizes Gov. Ryan Meeting

October 28, 1999

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba criticized the U.S. Interests Section in Havana on Thursday for arranging a meeting between visiting Illinois Gov. George Ryan and local dissidents.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez called the meeting, held earlier this week between Ryan and opposition members, a ``propaganda show.″

Gonzalez said the Cuban government was not criticizing Ryan, and considered the governor’s trip a great success.

The State Department said the Interests Section in Havana regularly schedules meetings between American visitors and Cuban dissidents. The Interest Section functions like an embassy.

Ryan returned to Illinois on Wednesday after a five-day trip, during which he repeatedly called for an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

On Monday, the governor met with eight opposition leaders at the residence of Interests Section mission chief, Vicky Huddleston.

The dissidents later traveled to a nearby restaurant, where in a rare meeting they met in public with foreign journalists.

Ryan arrived at the restaurant separately and gave an impromptu news conference, telling reporters the dissidents had told him that ``the problem with Cuba is Fidel Castro.″

The remark angered Cuban officials, and Ryan later said that the comment expressed the dissidents’ opinion, not his.

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