Cuba is published monthly
by PRIMA-News in Moscow in cooperation with
the Institute for Democracy in Eastern
Europe, based in Washington, D.C.
Union Tells Cuba:
Friends, Come Hell or High Water
European Union and Cuba officially restored diplomatic relations on
October 23, after a five-year suspension. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe
Roque and EU Commissioner Louis Michel signed an agreement at a
ceremony in Havana.
In the spring of 2003, the communist authorities arrested 75 prominent
members of the peaceful opposition — dissidents, journalists, and
civic and political organizations. In protest, the EU imposed sanctions
Castro regime. The EU measures were symbolic, not substantive. They
freeze on visits by high-level European officials and inviting
national day celebrations at embassies of EU member states in Havana. Two
years later, the EU sanctions
were suspended. On October 23, they were completely removed.
Why? Is there any sign of
fundamental change in Cuba?
The regime did not release all or even most of the 75 dissidents
lengthy terms of 13 to 28 years during Black Spring. The answer is more
the decision of Fidel Castro’s brother and successor, Raul, to allow
Cubans to buy microwaves, home computers, and other electrical
to allow Cubans to patronize hotels previously reserved for foreigners
the hearts of EU member states and trumped any concern for political
held in Cuba — well more than 200 overall. The Castro propaganda
EU publicists made it look like significant progress and the start of
political reforms! Fifty-five of the original 75 dissidents jailed in
remain behind bars. But what significance can they have when the
allows unrestricted sale of microwaves!
Clearly, the EU should have been
more coherent in its policy: it should have penalized the Cuban regime
ban on the sale of consumer electronics to Cuba
citizens, not for a crackdown on dissidents. Then EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita
Ferrero-Waldner would not have had to assure everyone after the
lifted that the EU will continue to monitor human rights conditions in Cuba.
No matter how foolish the EU’s
statements about its commitment to human rights may seem, this is no
matter for the Cuban people or especially Cuban dissidents. The
relations between the EU and communist Cuba
drew an immediate response by representatives
of Cuba’s peaceful opposition, who said the visit of
EU Commissioner Louis Michel to Cuba
would allow Cuba to dictate its terms to the European Union.
Oswaldo Payá stated that the renewal of relations is being done
rules set by the Cuban government, which has taken no action to reverse
conditions that were the cause of the break in 2003. Manuel Cuesta
Arco Progresista stated that the dialogue had great positive
does aid provided by the EU. Nonetheless, he said it would have been
hold meetings with the democratic opposition in Cuba.
Prominent dissident René Gómez Manzano wrote in a
statement: “In recent
times, we have noticed in the acts of the European Union a remarkably
acquiescing attitude toward various dictatorial regimes that violate
rights, in particular toward the Castro brothers’ regime in Cuba,
which will soon be half a century old.” He
continued, “If the present Cuban leadership were not ready to do so,
and if the
EU didn’t have the wisdom and the determination to firmly demand so, we
would be witnesses to one more noisy failure of the conciliatory policy
the European Union toward undemocratic regimes.”
On October 14, ten days before
the formal renewal of relations between the EU and Cuba,
National Liberal Party issued a statement
that the government signing in February of UN human rights pacts was only as “deceitful strategy.” It
intention of implementing the provisions of the
two pacts, the International Covenant on Civil
Rights and the International
Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The statement said
simply an attempt to court international public opinion
and to lend legitimacy to the new president.
August 7, the group asked Cuba’s
(parliament) to publicize the contents of the UN agreements and foster
national debate on them, there was no answer. This fact, the document
concluded, points to the paralysis of the political will of Cuba’s
rulers and the
lack of interest in honoring its international legal obligations.
However, Western governments
wouldn’t listen to dissidents’ warnings when making their political
EU also turns a deaf ear on those in Europe and Latin America who criticize the communist
regime in Cuba. Participants
in the Twelfth Annual Forum 2000 Conference held in the Czech Republic
noted there has been no significant change
in Cuba since Raul Castro took over the country’s
presidency. The Forum 2000 has held an
annual conference since 1997 under the auspices
of former Czech President
Václav Havel. Over the years, these annual gatherings have
personalities from all over the world to discuss global issues. This
event was attended by the exiled Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner.
Catalina Botero Marino, the newly appointed OAS Special Raporteur for
Freedom of Expression, told Radio Martí that the government of Cuba
prevents its citizens from exercising their
fundamental rights. Botero Marino, a former justice on the
of Colombia, is responsible for protecting and
promoting freedom of thought and
expression in the region.
The futility of efforts undertaken by Cuban dissidents and their
to drum up support for Cuba
in Europe has sad
consequences. The ruling Castro brothers remain convinced that Europe’s alleged solidarity
with dissidents in Cuba is a myth and that
the only relevant reality is Europe’s wish, against any
obstacles, to be friends with the Castro regime. Reveling in this
Cuban communists act accordingly. They feel free to do whatever they
So, at the end of September,
Rodolfo Ramírez, head of the peaceful opposition group
Pacífica Democrática Corriente Martiana, was detained in Havana.
“Rodolfo was detained by State Security agents to prevent him from
Prayer for National Unity to be held that day in a church in Santiago
de Las Vegas, in Boyeros
municipality, in Havana,”
Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez Valdés, a fellow
dissident. “Oppositionists intended
to stage a brief demonstration after the mass, and that, certainly, was
reason for his arrest,” he added.
Early in October, two Cuban
rights activists were detained in the city of Camagüey
as they were taking part in a solemn vigil as part of the ongoing
the release of political prisoners.
According to the independent
journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira, two members of the Julio Tang Texier
Civic Project, Orestes Martínez Pérez and Ricardo
Martínez Betancourt, were
taken to a police station and held there for two hours. Agents of the
political police questioned, threatened, and humiliated them.
Miguel Santana Breffe, a representative of the Cuban National Liberal
Party in Antilla municipality, Holguín province, was detained,
threatened with imprisonment if he continued his opposition activities
promotion of human rights in Cuba.
Santana Breffe was detained as he was
talking to victims of Hurricane Ike. He was taken to a police station
there for two hours.
According to a source on the Isle of Youth, oppositionist Lázaro
Ricardo Pérez García was also threatened with jail for
information about the situation in the country after the wrath of
and for his opposition activities generally.
In mid October, representatives of the political opposition in Cuba
reported a new wave of government repression
in the eastern regions of the island. They referred to arrests and
sanctions in recent weeks in response to alleged “calls to criminal
after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Several human rights activists have
threatened with imprisonment for reporting abuses of the public by the
authorities and discrimination in the provision of humanitarian aid to
of the natural disaster.
Emboldened by the knowledge that
they can act with impunity, Cuban authorities behave unscrupulously and
malevolently toward foreigners, including citizens of Spain,
whose Socialist Party government has led efforts to foster closer ties
the EU and Cuba.
On October 6, Cuban authorities detained Gracia
Regojo Bacardí, a Spanish aid worker associated
with a Church group, the CUME
Humanitarian Foundation, who arrived in
the eastern city of Santiago
de Cuba to help Cuba’s
resettle. Soon after, she was deported from Cuba.
The Spanish group Cuba
in Transition said Gracia Regojo Bacardí was
just the latest among a total of at least twelve workers from
non-governmental organizations who had been questioned and expelled
island by Cuban authorities. They were ordered to leave the country for
humanitarian work without the Cuban government’s permission, reported Cuba
The Community of Madrid has denounced the Cuban government for
banishing Spanish aid worker Gracia Regojo Bacardí from the
island and demanded
that Spain respond accordingly. Javier Fernández Lasquetty,
Immigration and Cooperation of the Community of Madrid, met with Mrs.
Bacardí on October 15. He expressed regret that the Spanish
government, led by
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, decided to give 400 million
euro to aid Cuba in spite of this incident.
Fernández-Lasquetty recalled that the government promised to
measures against the expulsion of the employee of the CUME Humanitarian
Foundation, but decided instead to give Cuba
more money to prop up Castro’s policy of
tyranny. The Spanish official expressed doubt the money would ever
Cuban people, saying the money is not meant for the needy.
said he felt ashamed that Zapatero has taken the money from Spaniards
thrown it away to aid a dictatorship that has been silencing and
dissenters for 50 years.
Moscow, October 2008
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