By Myriam Marquez | Orlando Sentinel
The European Union’s Council for Latin America wants the EU to suspend sanctions imposed against Cuba after the communist island’s 2003 crackdown on dissidents. So Cuba plays nicey-nice and resumes diplomatic relations with eight European countries.
And once again Cuba’s people lose any hope for real change. No surprise.
Those are nations that long have excused Cuba’s half-century rule by one man as “growing pains.” France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Austria, Greece, Portugal and Sweden are Cuba’s diplomatic pals again. They follow the socialist government of Spain, which is clamoring for the EU to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Of course, trade and tourism have continued during the almost two years of strained diplomatic relations between the EU and Cuba.
That’s the problem Cuba’s democracy lovers face. There is no international will to press Fidel Castro’s regime toward change. No universal approach, like there was during South Africa’s apartheid when the world’s largest democracies agreed to use economic sanctions to force democratic change.
Cuba has its own apartheid, and it’s as much based on race as it is adherence to the communist party line. You can count the number of blacks in power there on a few fingers in an island where blacks and mixed-race Cubans dominate. But, hey, as long as Europe can get Cuban rum and cigars, and a few prostitutes for its tourists, why worry? Be happy.
Cuba released a few prisoners of conscience last month, expecting a quid pro quo from the EU. Fidel Castro is a master at using imprisoned dissidents as currency when it suits him.
In a few weeks the EU will consider its council’s proposal, which recommends that EU embassies stop inviting Cuban dissidents to national holiday celebrations for six months. To be “fair” the EU wouldn’t invite Cuban officials to those events either.
Had Cuba released all its dissidents, maybe the EU’s namby-pamby course would be warranted. But, as usual, Cuba only released a few high-profile dissidents while several hundred others remain behind bars.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque maintains that Cuba’s dissidents are nothing more than “mercenaries, paid and controlled by the government of the United States.” The EU would make such an outlandish accusation even more plausible by locking out dissidents from its embassies.
French and other diplomats vow that won’t happen, that they will continue to meet with dissidents but simply not invite them to formal affairs. Such a nuanced half glass of diplomacy will do nothing to help those who are bravely trying to exact change in Cuba through peaceful means.
Europe likes to lecture the rest of the world, particularly the United States, on human rights. What hypocrisy. With the exception of a few EU nations, like the Czech Republic that endured decades of Soviet oppression, European leaders continue to wink at Cuba’s oppression. Shameful.