French President Jacques Chirac used a bilateral summit meeting with Spain to describe the recent freeing of several Cuban political prisoners as a “positive effect” arising from Spanish attempts to soften the EU line on relations with Havana.
Cuba has in recent days released seven dissidents out of a total of 75 regime opponents jailed last year in a government crackdown. The releases came on the back of a meeting between Spain’s ambassador to Cuba, Carlos Alonso Zaldivar, with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque in the first contact between an EU state and a senior Cuban official since the European Union imposed sanctions on the island last year.
The European Union set the sanctions to protest the crackdown against dissidents and the execution of three Cubans convicted of trying to hijack a ferry to the United States.
Although Washington continues to support a tough line on Cuba, Chirac praised Spain for its attempts to restore dialogue with Havana.
“Truth does not always necessarily come from the mouth of some (US) State Department official,” said a smiling Chirac when asked to comment on a recent accusation by US Undersecretary of State for Latin American affairs Roger Noriega that Madrid was making “concessions” to Cuba.
Chirac, speaking after wide-ranging talks with his host, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said that France “perfectly approved” a policy designed to establish a dialogue with Havana.
“I note that this policy has had positive effects with the freeing of several personalities,” said Chirac.
Zapatero meanwhile said he would align himself with “the evaluation made by Raul Rivero on the effects of this policy or that policy,” in reference to Cuban dissident writer Rivero, who on his release expressed his “eternal gratitude” to the Spanish government.
Rivero added that hardline policies such as the US embargo against Cuba were not working.