Norway scolds Cuban ambassador

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Cuba’s ambassador to Norway was being summoned to Norway’s Foreign Ministry this week for the third time, reports newspaper Aftenposten . The reason: The diplomat’s anything-but-diplomatic choice of words in describing a member of the Norwegian parliament as, among other things, an “insect.”

Cuban Ambassador Rogerio Santana has also claimed that Jan Tore Sanner, deputy leader of Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) and a member of parliament (MP), has “close contact” with terrorists in Miami and “the boss of Miami’s mafia,” Mel Martinez, reports Aftenposten. Martinez is a Republican US Senator from Florida.

Sanner met Martinez and several other members of the US Congress in Washington last spring, as part of an international effort to free journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzales, who has been jailed in Cuba after writing critical articles about Cuba’s school and health care systems. Santana calls Hernandez Gonzales “an agent for the US, the historic enemy of the Cuban nation.”

Sanner has become involved in an international committee for democracy in Cuba, founded by the earlier Czech dissident and president Vaclav Havel. Cuba’s embassy in Norway, however, claims the committee is nothing more than an “interventionist instrument” set up and financed during the Bush Administration as part of the former US president’s “colonization policies towards the Cuban nation.”Now the Norwegian government has had enough.

“We have freedom of expression in Norway, also for ambassadors,” Ragnhild Imerslund of the Foreign Ministry told Aftenposten . “But this type of language is completely unacceptable. Norway expects that ambassadors comply with local standards of conduct. These expressions go against those standards.

“We have taken this up with the Cuban ambassador several times, and we will continue to do so.”

One might think Sanner, who is part of the government’s opposition in Norway, would welcome the Foreign Ministry’s support. Instead, he told Aftenposten that the ministry shouldn’t just have a “cozy chat” with Santana.

“Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre must himself take up the issue and give the ambassador a clear message,” Sanner said. He added that the government could then begin to reverse its policies of normalizing relations with Cuba, and stressed that the opposition in Cuba must still be invited to Norwegian Constitution Day festivities at the Norwegian Embassy in Havana and be allowed to use the embassy’s Internet connections.