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Posted April 29, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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By Benedetto Cataldi | BBC Monitoring

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Fidel Castro is losing friends in Italy

Cuba’s recent clampdown on dissidents is alienating Italy, a country historically close to the Caribbean island.

On Tuesday, the Italian lower house approved a motion calling on the government to halt Italy’s economic aid to Cuba if dissidents are not freed and executions are not stopped.

Cuba recently jailed 75 dissidents and executed three ferry hijackers.

The motion - sponsored by the centre-right ruling coalition but partially backed by the left as well - also urged the government to seek a EU-wide common position of pressure on Cuba.

The move could be helped by Italy’s forthcoming term of EU presidency, scheduled to start on 1 July.

By acting against Cuba’s one-party socialist state, Italy’s conservative ruling coalition has come yet one step closer to the positions of US President George W Bush.

Soul-searching

More surprisingly, Italy’s left is also condemning repression in Cuba: some of Fidel Castro’s best friends can be found in the Italian left, which includes two explicitly communist parties.

Fidel Castro’s recent policies have prompted a serious soul-searching exercise in the Italian left, often accused by critics of supporting dictatorships.

The left is increasingly critical of the Cuban leader, with the possible exception of the Party of Italian Communists, who mostly still support Mr Castro.

Not only did the moderate left vote in favour of some sections of the centre-right’s motion, but it also tabled its own motion condemning Cuba’s clampdown and calling for the respect of human rights.

The Party of Italian Communists and Communist Refoundation also presented motions urging the respect of human rights.

Vatican condemnation

Roberto Foresti, chairman of the Italy-Cuba Friendship Association, told BBC News Online that dialogue between governments is the only way to solve problems.

Arguably, Italy has been Cuba’s best friend in the West and Cuba seems to be losing this support.

But Fidel Castro also risks losing the support of Pope John Paul II, who boosted the Cuban leader’s international reputation by visiting the island in 1998.

A Vatican statement released on Saturday expressed the Pope’s deep regret at the executions and urged “a significant act of clemency” from the Cuban leader.

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