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Posted March 09, 2008 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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By Anthony Boadle | Reuters

(original title: EU commissioner wants Cuba sanctions abolished)

The European Union’s top development aid official left Cuba on Sunday convinced that EU diplomatic sanctions against the communist island should be dropped after Fidel Castro’s retirement, his main aide said.

EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel visited Havana to gauge the political climate following the replacement of the ailing 81-year-old Castro by his brother Raul Castro on Feb 24, Cuba’s first change of leader in almost half a century.

Michel said he will try to persuade the EU’s 27 member states to scrap diplomatic sanctions that were adopted after a crackdown on dissent in 2003 but have not been enforced since 2005, Michel’s top aide and European Commission Director-General for Development Stefano Manservisi said.

The EU measures, which included a freeze on visits by high-level officials, were diplomatic and did not stop trade and investment in Cuba, unlike the embargo the United States has maintained against Havana since 1962. In 2005, the sanctions were suspended contingent on periodic reviews of Cuba’s human rights record.

During his stay, Michel did not meet President Raul Castro but held talks with Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Lage, Vice President Carlos Lage and National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon.

Michel found that economic and political changes, including advances in human rights, are in the pipeline, though they may take time and are not being publicly broadcast by the new leadership, Manservisi said.

“Michel is more than ever convinced that a situation of political immobility by the European Union in this context of underground movement would be a big mistake,” Manservisi said.

“He is convinced that the EU must find a way to unlock this situation,” he told foreign reporters in Havana. Manservisi said the sanctions only exist on paper and will not be enforced again due to lack of unanimity in the EU, but they remain a hurdle in engaging Cuba at a crucial moment of its history.

SANCTIONS AN ‘OBSTACLE’

In a joint communique, the European Commission acknowledged Cuba’s position that the diplomatic sanctions adopted in 2003 are “the main obstacle” to establishing political talks with the European Union and “should be definitively eliminated.”

Brussels froze relations with Havana in 2003 after Cuba jailed 75 dissidents in a political crackdown and executed three men who hijacked a ferry to flee to the United States.

The sanctions included a freeze on high-level visits to Cuba and inviting dissidents to national day celebrations, a move that annoyed Fidel Castro, who held protest rallies outside the Spanish and Italian embassies and told the EU that Cuba no longer needed its aid.

The EU remains divided on relations with Cuba. Former colonial power Spain leads advocates of engagement while the Czech Republic and other former communist states of Eastern Europe oppose closer ties on human rights grounds.

With 55 of the 75 dissidents jailed in 2003 still behind bars, some EU governments would like to see Cuba release more political prisoners before shelving the sanctions entirely. The European Council of foreign ministers will decide in June.

The European Union is Cuba’s largest commercial partner, with $3 billion a year in trade, and its top foreign investor.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

  1. Follow up post #1 added on March 09, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    So the EU envoy couldn’t even get a meeting with Raul Castro. Basically a big F You to the EU from Fidel and Raul.

    Perez Roque must have assured him that political change is underway and Perez Roque never lies or exaggerates…

    “Michel found that economic and political changes, including advances in human rights, are in the pipeline, though they may take time and are not being publicly broadcast by the new leadership, Manservisi said.”

    and

    Shouldn’t this line “He is convinced that the EU must find a way to unlock this situation” read

    “He is convinced that CUBA must find a way to unlock this situation”? Why isn’t Cuba responsible for getting the sanctions lifted? Releasing four dissidents from jail and immediately exiling them to Spain does not seem like a good reason for the EU envoy to start demanding change from the EU.

    Is it just me or are the EU envoy’s lipstick marks still visible on Perez Roque’s ass?

    Sorry Raul but I’m still looking for some actions by you that will change my attitude. I’m happy to post positive changes when I see them but so far just the same old Cuba.



    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on March 11, 2008 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    I don’t think the Czech Republic will be voting in favour of lifting the so-called “sanctions” if they take heed of their former president and others in this article in the New York Sun:

    Our Stand Against Castro’s Cuba
    By VACLAV HAVEL
    Project Syndicate
    March 11, 2008

    PRAGUE — Five years ago, the European Union was on the verge of fulfilling one of the aspirations of the Velvet Revolutions that swept across Central and Eastern Europe by expanding from 15 to 25 members through the accession of several post-communist states. Yet, while the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain may have fallen into the dustbin of history, others vestiges of the Soviet era remain firmly in place. Certain areas of the world have been transformed for the better, even as others have been suspended in time to fend for themselves. One place that has not changed is Cuba, despite Fidel Castro’s decision to retire and hand the reigns of power over to his brother Raul.

    On March 18, five years ago, Castro’s government cracked down on the Varela Project and other civil society initiatives rather than risk allowing a spark of democratic reform to spread across Cuba as it had in the former Soviet bloc. The 75 prisoners of conscience locked up were dissidents, independent journalists, leaders from civil society, and librarians, who had dared to speak the truth openly about what life is like in Cuba. Even though seven prisoners have recently been released, 52 of the 75 remain incarcerated in deplorable conditions. In general, the only reason that any of these prisoners were freed was because of how seriously their health had deteriorated.

    Given how central the values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are in Europe, we feel it is our obligation to speak out against such injustices continuing unchecked. Less than 20 years ago there were political prisoners on the E.U.‘s borders who were denied the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression, lived in constant fear of being denounced, and dreamed about enjoying what Europeans in the “West” took for granted.

    Cuba’s regime has remained in power, the same ways that communist governments did in the former Yugoslavia, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — the last three as part of the Soviet Union — by using propaganda, censorship, and violence to create a climate of fear. Likewise, the solidarity that was expressed by those outside of these countries helped bring about the changes.

    Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not embraced democracy and continues to repress all forms of political dissent. Today, Cuba is closer to making genuine democratic changes due to sacrifices made by dissidents and activists inspired by how other parts of the world have been transformed since the end of the Cold War.

    We believe that the former communist Central and Eastern European countries are in a unique position to support the democracy movements in Cuba based on the similarities of their histories and experiences. Our intentions in pushing for democratization are based on friendship and cooperation, good will, and an understanding of the needs, expectations, and hopes of Cuban people.

    We, the undersigned, believe that the E.U., as one of the driving forces in international politics, needs to speak out in unison against governments oppressing their own citizens. The E.U. should denounce human rights violations in Cuba and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. The ministers of foreign affairs from all E.U. member states should send a demarche on March 18 to their Cuban counterpart demanding their release as well.

    The actions taken or not taken by the Cuban government should be used as a benchmark when the European Council reviews the E.U.‘s Common Position on Cuba in June. Lastly, the E.U. should continue actively supporting peaceful democratic movements and civil society organizations in Cuba by taking advantage of the intrinsic knowledge some of its member states have about making a transition to democracy.

    Five years ago the dream of several former Soviet satellites being members of the E.U. was becoming a reality. Dissidents and those committed to the spread of democracy had made this possible. The time has come for us to repay that debt by helping those in Cuba, whose dreams have already been deferred for too long.

    Mr. Havel is a former president of the Czech Republic. Other authors of this article are: Ferenc Köszeg, Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania; Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuanian MEP and former president; Milan Kucan, former president of Slovenia; Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia; Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada; André Glucksmann, philosopher; José Ribeiro e Castro, Portuguese MEP; Edward McMillan-Scott, British member of the European Parliament; and Leszek Balcerowicz, former president of the Bank of Poland. All are European based members of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on March 11, 2008 by abh

    These discussions are interesting and can go on forever, but the most ironic part of them is that we have all these capitalists arguing for sanctions.  It doesn’t really make much sense does it?  Whatever happened to free trade and commerce?  Just another chapter in the bizarre history of this country; socialists arguing for more free trade and capitalists arguing against it.  Of course, as we who read this blog know, most of the world’s capitalists are against the embargo…


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