Cuban Foreign Minister Blasts Bush State Dept. Appointment

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - President Bush's nomination of a Cuban exile for a top post at the State Department is causing more tension between the U.S. and the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

"Unbelievable" is the way a top Cuban government official characterized the nomination of Otto Reich to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

According to Radio Havana, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque called Reich an "old anti-communist cold warrior who was involved in illegal activities in the dirty wars in Central America during the Ronald Reagan administration."

Perez Roque added that Reich's nomination is "not only bad for Cuba, but for all of Latin America."

A spokesperson said Reich was currently traveling and unavailable for comment.

Reich was the Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1981 to 1983 before serving as a special advisor to former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz from 1983 to 1986. During that time, he established and managed the interagency Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean.

From 1986 to 1989, Reich was the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and received the State Department's Exemplary Service Award and Superior Honor Award. He is currently the president of RMA International, Inc.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a Cuban exile and one of Fidel Castro's biggest critics on Capitol Hill, is supporting Reich's nomination.

"President Bush and Secretary Powell have made a brilliant choice in Otto Reich for our top diplomat for Latin America," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Otto will make all Americans proud in that key position.

"He will effectively advocate President Bush's policies, clearly cognizant of the president's goal to achieve a Western Hemisphere of free and democratic nations, without exceptions, united by free trade and common values," he added.

The Senate still must confirm Reich's nomination.