HAVANA - Cuban President Fidel Castro accused the European Union on Saturday of joining Washington in ganging up on Cuba after the EU cut back diplomatic and political ties in response to a crackdown on dissidents.
“We must all remain calm, because a gang, a mafia, has joined the Yankee imperialists ... disgracefully serving the Nazi-fascist government of the United States,” he told some 7,000 people in a rally in a working-class suburb of Havana.
While Castro did not name the EU, the comments clearly referred to the EU’s decision on Thursday to put diplomatic sanctions on Cuba.
That decision was made after the Cuban government put to death three ferry hijackers who were trying to make it to the United States and gave 75 dissidents and journalists jail terms of up to 28 years.
They had been accused of working with Washington to undermine the government of Castro, who has been in power since a 1959 revolution,
The EU decided unanimously to limit high-level government visits and to reduce the participation of its 15 member states in cultural events in Cuba. The EU also said it would invite Cuban dissidents to receptions celebrating European national days, which Cuban officials no longer attend.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque on Friday accused Brussels of bowing to pressure from the United States, Cuba’s archenemy 90 miles across the Florida Straits.
But Diego Ojeda, spokesman for European External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, denied that the EU had been influenced by Washington and said that the Commission was just as critical of the United States for using the death penalty.
“The decision-making process is completely autonomous,” he said. “When we sense a marked deterioration of the situation, we react accordingly.”
On Castro’s language, Ojeda said: “Those words speak for themselves.”
The limited measures by the EU, Cuba’s largest trading partner and foreign investor, came after the European Commission froze Cuba’s request to join the Cotonou Agreement.
Joining the aid accord for former European colonies would have been a boon for Cuba, where poverty is widespread.
The crackdown on Castro’s opponents and the execution of three men who hijacked a ferry came days after the EU opened an embassy in Havana.