By Isabel Garcia-Zarza | Reuters
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba took control of Spain’s cultural center in Havana on Thursday as relations between the Communist-run country and its main economic partner, the European Union, deteriorated further over human rights issues.
The Spanish Embassy called the move “a profoundly lamentable blow to freedom of expression,” and “an attempt to impede Cuban intellectuals and artists from having access to a pluralistic space between cultures,” in a verbal note to Cuban authorities.
Cuba put 75 dissidents behind bars for up to 28 years in March, then executed three men who hijacked a ferry in a failed bid to reach the United States. That angered the EU, which then slapped diplomatic and cultural sanctions on the country.
President Fidel Castro responded by accusing the 15-member European body, and in particular Spain and Italy, of meddling in his country’s affairs, and canceled the contract with Spain allowing it to run the center.
Spain had 90 days to hand over the center’s keys. The deadline expired on Thursday.
Since June, Cuban officials have stopped attending events hosted by EU countri