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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

‘Dialogue’ should be with opposition, not Europeans

Posted March 15, 2005 by Cubana in Cuba Politics.
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BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER

Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s foreign minister, is in Europe asking nations not to condemn his government at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, as happens every spring.

He does not deny that in his country there are nearly 300 political prisoners (he calls them ``CIA agents’‘); that people are executed after summary trials to teach others a lesson and send messages; or that for almost half a century (as invariably has happened in communist tyrannies) all human and civil rights established by the U.N. Charter have been trampled. Nonetheless, Perez Roque asks that all that be ignored.

What does he offer in exchange? With one half of his mouth—so as not to commit himself too much because Fidel Castro would then reduce him to a parks keeper, as he did to his predecessor, Roberto Robaina—Perez Roque promises that maybe the oppositionists will be mistreated less, hints at a very vague hope of releasing certain captives and shows himself willing to open a sort of constructive dialogue with European Union countries, whom he summons to a conversation after issuing a strange request: ``All Cuba wants is to be treated as a normal country.’‘

In fact, it is difficult to consider Cuba a normal country. To Europe and all serious nations in the world, normalcy is defined by obedience toward democratic rules, pluralism and respect for human rights.

In normal countries, no dictator stays in power for 46 years, journalists and independent librarians are not jailed, and no vicious persecution is unleashed against those who propose a vision of society other than the one arbitrarily imposed by the single caudillo at the head of his equally single party.

In normal nations, the governments do not organize pogroms to terrorize the opposition and intimidate the disaffected; they don’t sink boats loaded with refugees—42 children, women and men died in the provoked sinking of the boat 13 de Marzo—and don’t shoot down unarmed civilian planes over international waters.

Europe must not give in to that obscene blackmail. Castro uses political prisoners the way kidnappers utilize their hostages. They are the currency with which he buys favors. If the Cuban government violates human rights, it must be condemned without mitigation before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva and before any forum where a moral judgment is sought on the situation in Cuba.

It is not true that the dictatorship will ease its grip if Europe ignores the violations and crimes committed on the island. Out of 75 Cuban democrats imprisoned in the summer of 2003, 61 remain in prison and 14 have been given a kind of precarious conditional freedom. But in that same period, 21 other oppositionists have been jailed. Castro does not learn, change or relent; he is a petrified dictator.

As regards the Cuba-EU dialogue proposed by Perez Roque, the most coherent response Europe can give is to tell the Cuban chancellor that his government must sit down to dialogue with the democrats in the opposition before it attempts to do so with foreign nations. That would be truly eloquent proof that, in fact, there is a willingness to change on the part of Castro’s government.

Fortunately, the dissidents inside the country have placed on the table not one but two creative offers for negotiation: the National Dialogue proposed by Christian dissident Oswaldo PayŠ, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, and the Assembly for the Advancement of Civil Society, called for May 20 by economist and former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.

If the Cuban government wants to show its willingness to make amends, instead of sitting down for a discussion with the Europeans, it should start doing so with its own people. Those two forums are perfect to find out if Perez Roque lies or speaks seriously.

Member Comments

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On March 15, 2005, jesusp wrote:

Mr. Montaner should add to his definition of a “normal” country that which defines that a small country like Cuba should not be subjected to 44 years of an unrelentless economic blockade, plots to assasinate its leader and every form of hostility imaginable. Having said that, I do believe that dialogue between the government and the opposition must take place and it should be initiated by the government.