The U.S. Embassy's distribution last week of a 15-month-old document outlining Cuban support for leftist guerrillas here has drawn a sharp rebuke from Argentine officials, who link the timing of the U.S. action to President Reynaldo Bignone's praise of Cuba for its support during the Falklands war.
Bignone, who is in New Delhi attending the summit of nonaligned nations, was quoted in press reports here as calling the U.S. move "an episode of bad taste."
"The United States, in making reference to the support by Fidel Castro of terrorist movements in Latin America--and in particular in the case of Argentina--in Buenos Aires while the Argentine president is at this conference, is evidently in some manner intervening in the internal affairs of the Argentine republic," he said.
First released in Washington in December 1981, the report, entitled "Renewed Cuban Support for Violence in Latin America," was at that time distributed to various Latin American capitals including Buenos Aires. The U.S. Embassy mailed out the document last week to local newspapers, which received it while Bignone was in New Delhi.
Embassy officials said that they did not receive the report for bulk distribution until last January and that technical problems prevented it from being mailed until this month.
The 21-page U.S. study includes a short section on Argentina. It says that Cuba "fomented and actively encouraged terrorism in Argentina," citing links between the Caribbean nation and two groups that unleashed a guerrilla war against the Argentine government in the early 1970s.
The report was published yesterday on the front page of the progovernment daily La Nacion just 24 hours after Bignone praised the Cuban regime and its leader, Fidel Castro, at the opening session of the nonaligned summit.
U.S. Ambassador Harry Shlaudeman was called in yesterday to hear of Argentina's official disapproval over the report's release. After meeting with Alberto Dumont, acting director of politics at the Foreign Ministry, Shlaudeman said that the release was "unfortunate" and denied that the timing had any political connotations.
In his comments in New Delhi, Bignone defended what some observers here have criticized as a marked shift over the past several months away from the military government's previous unyielding anti-Marxism and anti-Castroism. Most analysts here detect a rapprochement by Argentina with both Cuba and the Palestine Liberation Organization as it attempts to win a ringing declaration of support from the Nonaligned Movement on the question of the Falkland Islands.
Buenos Aires has maintained diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba since the mid-1970s while generally opposing its political stands on Latin American and other world issues. But Argentina welcomed Havana's support during the Falklands war, which ended in June, and strongly protested the U.S. government's backing for London in the conflict.
The independent English-language daily The Buenos Aires Herald said in an editorial today, "The U.S. representatives here had better be much more discreet in their references to ties between Cuba or the Soviet Union and Argentina in the future, because the regime's spokesmen are likely to be referring to them in appreciative terms more and more frequently."
The diplomatic flap came on the heels of the refusal Tuesday of the Argentine Navy to join other Latin American countries in participating in annual naval exercises with the United States. The naval high command called the decision "a result of a situation in which, due to the loyal and strict cooperation such a joint operation would entail, the attitude of the United States is a stumbling block."