Assessment: Cuba is published bi-monthly by PRIMA-News in
cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based
The European Union’s Childish
A hot Cuban summer this year was
signaled by warming relations between the European Union and communist
European politicians like to talk about human rights, declare their
to them, and occasionally express concern and bewilderment over some
extraordinary actions or events in the world. But mostly, they like to
appearances, smile politely, and maintain smooth and pleasant
relations so that they are not required to resort to strong criticism
the target of deserving criticism themselves. A normal human wish!
Isn’t it a nice wish for the
executioner to respectfully give way to his lady victim and even
help her up the scaffold before beheading her? European politicians
tears and purr with sympathetic tenderness. Isn’t it also a nice wish
cannibal to use refined language when inviting his victim for breakfast
consume him? In the European
politicians’ eyes, this is the triumph of political correctness and
well-balanced political strategy.
Except Cuban dissidents
stubbornly refuse to accept such obvious European values. The Cuban opposition
alliance “Agenda for Transition” has urged the European Union to work
benefit of the Cuban people and not for the benefit of the island’s
Otherwise, normalization would mean punishing all of civil society and
especially those who are fighting for democracy, the letter concluded.
group stressed in an open letter that more than 200 dissidents are
languishing in Cuban jails.
Agenda for Transition leader
Vladimiro Roca told EFE they would take the letter to the French
of the EU meeting in mid-June reviewing the policy of sanctions imposed
the Cuban regime in 2003. France currently holds the EU rotating
The European sanctions were
imposed following a wave of arrests of Cuban dissidents in the Spring
and include a freeze on visits by high-level officials; the policy also
includes inviting dissidents to national day celebrations at embassies
member states in Havana. The sanctions were formally suspended, but
not permanently lifted, in 2005.
Martí Noticias writes that
the Cuban regime pushes for the end of these so-called sanctions, but
its repressive policies against dissidents. Agenda for Transition
will happen after “normal relations” with the communist regime in Cuba
restored. In its open letter, given to Agence France-Presse and other
media on Tuesday, June 10, opposition leaders Martha Beatriz Roque and
Vladimiro Roca warned that the Cuban government wants the opposition to
ignored so it can continue trampling on fundamental freedoms without
being rebuked by the EU.
dissidents’ concerns fell on
deaf ears. An EU diplomat told Reuters in June, “The time could be
because of changes undertaken by Cuba’s new leadership.” By these, he
changes allowing Cubans to buy cell phones, rent rooms in hotels once
for foreigners, and an increase in public debate. “Sanctions could be
another EU diplomat said of the ongoing talks, “but linked with
a review.” Yet another said, “We are working on finding the exact
ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers on June 16.
The former colonial
has long led the calls to end the EU sanctions, which unlike the 1962
embargo never prevented trade and investment. But the change did meet
resistance from the 27-member bloc’s ex-communist members, notably the
Republic. Prague is skeptical of signs of progress or reforms in Cuba
wanted a “dual-track” approach under which high-ranking EU delegations
obliged to raise concern over human rights and democracy during any
to meet opposition groups. “This is our condition for the negotiation
ending sanctions],” a Czech spokesman said in Brussels.
One needn’t have the ability to
see the future to guess that isolated voices of doubt, concern and mere
sense would be drowned in the sweet-talking chorus of European
have developed a taste for comfort and cynicism dubbed the art of
And so, the European
sanctions against Cuba. The decision was announced on Thursday, June
a meeting of EU foreign ministers. The EU Commissioner for External
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, explained that the measures approved by
meant to “encourage” authorities on the island to continue movement
reform. She also noted that radical improvement in relations between
the EU and
Cuba is possible only with a significant improvement in the human
situation in Cuba, especially the freeing of political prisoners.
But what does this “radical
improvement” mean? Havana would hardly notice the lifting of the
diplomatic sanctions: first, they were limited and, second, they were
three years ago. Imposed in 2003, they mainly consisted of restricting
high-level political contacts and couldn’t be compared to the tough
the United States adopted against its southern neighbor.
The EU imposed its
sanctions under international
response to mass arrests of dissidents in Cuba, but it scrapped them in
reaction to the Cuban government’s decision to approve the sale of
and other electric appliances to ordinary Cubans! Out of seventy-five
dissidents arrested during the Black Spring in 2003, twenty were
health reasons, and fifty-five remain imprisoned.
No cases were
reviewed. There were no amnesties. And there are new political
Cuban jails. But Raul Castro authorized the sale within Cuba of
the EU, it is the most significant sign of democratization on the
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel
Angel Moratinos, the most active proponent of lifting sanctions, said,
is defending the idea of democracy and freedom for Cuba and the Cubans
engaged in a fruitful dialogue with Cuba. Spain will continue to work
the Cubans can evolve.” Such a statement speaks volumes of how the
minister himself could hardly evolve.
In Havana, Marta
leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba stated that the
European Union’s decision elated the totalitarian regime and untied its
to crack down on dissent. Human rights activists consider the reforms
instituted by Raúl Castro —the ostensible reason for lifting the
sanctions — as
purely cosmetic and say that Spain now bears heavy responsibility for
the Havana regime stay afloat.
scientist Cesar Vidal told Radio Liberty, “Spain’s policy is idiotic.
believes 80-year-old Castro and his circle can be re-educated as
called such an assertion by the Spanish foreign minister demagoguery.
said that forces in power in Spain imagine themselves as mentors to the
marginal regimes of Latin America, including Raul Castro’s Cuba, Evo
Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and they are trying to convince
their ability to influence these regimes and “civilize” them.
Former prime minister of Estonia
Mart Laar sharply criticized the European Union and his own government
approving the lifting of sanctions against communist Cuba. “The EU has
to . . . acknowledge the ‘liberal reforms’ that have been undertaken by
government of Raul Castro. That news could have been expected, but it
offensive to read. It is hard to believe that people with sober minds
seriously speak of liberalization coming to Cuba,” Laar writes on his
“Yes, the Cubans now have the
right to enter hotels for foreigners, and now they can own computers —
as before, only the communist nomenklatura has money for it. Free use
Internet remains forbidden, not to mention other freedoms. And that’s
liberalization?” Laar writes. Instead, Europe should have listened to
voices of those who “stand for democracy in Cuba” while deciding the
lifting the sanctions.
“Although the EU also
decided that the issue of conditions in Cuba will be examined again in
it cannot be believed, unfortunately, that, if political prisoners are
rotting in the prisons and the internet will still be inaccessible to
Europe will find the courage in itself to restore the sanctions. That
requires a consensus and, of course, there will be at least one country
Europe that will try to block it. But the decision to lift the
required a consensus as well. Therefore, I am ashamed not only of
of my country too,” the veteran Estonian politician concluded.
A policy of appeasement is
nothing new. But it’s a pity that the victims, and not the creators of
policy, reap the consequences.
Moscow, June 2008