EU lines up with US
Editorial piece from Cuba Si
On June 12, Cuban President Fidel Castro and Vice-President Raul Castro led more than one million people in marches past the Spanish and Italian embassies in Havana. They were protesting against the European Union’s decision on June 5 to join Washington’s campaign of diplomatic provocations against the island.
In a television interview broadcast the evening before the march, Fidel identified the right-wing governments of Spain and Italy as the chief instigators of the EU decision. He called Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar “a little fuhrer with a moustache and Nazi-fascist ideology” and Italian billionaire PM Silvio Berlusconi, a “burlesconi” – a Spanish pun suggesting a clownish fool.
In a statement released to the media on June 5 – hours before it was delivered to the Cuban government – the 15 member-countries of the EU announced that they would reduce “high-level” governmental contacts with Cuba and “invite Cuban dissidents to national holiday celebrations” at the Havana embassies of EU member states.
In response, the Cuban foreign ministry issued a statement on June 11 that said the EU’s decision was motivated by European leaders’ desire to show “their contrition and repentance over the differences that arose over the war in Iraq” between the EU and Washington.
The EU statement criticised Cuba’s April execution of three members of a criminal gang that had hijacked a ferry.
The foreign ministry responded: “Cuba has never heard a word from the European Union condemning the death penalty in the United States. It has never seen the European Union spearhead a motion in the [UN] Human Rights Commission condemning the United States for inflicting the death penalty on minors, the mentally ill and foreigners who were denied their right to meet with their consuls.
“Cuba has never heard the European Union criticise the 71 executions that took place in the United States last year, including the executions of two women…
“Therefore, Cuba does not take the union’s lament seriously; it knows it is replete with hypocrisy and double standards.”
The EU also said it was “deeply concerned about the continuing flagrant violation of human rights and of fundamental freedoms of members of the Cuban opposition and of independent journalists” – a reference to the jail terms, averaging 19 years, given to some 70 opponents of the Cuban Revolution found guilty in early April of working for the US government.
In response, the Cuban foreign ministry criticised the EU’s attempt to “disguise as ‘opposition members’ and ‘dissidents’ mercenaries in the pay of the US government, who hope to play their part from inside Cuba in the US government’s goal of overthrowing the Cuban Revolution”.
The statement added that Cuba has “never heard the European Union say one word of censure about the hundreds of prisoners – some of whom are Europeans – whom the United States is holding, in violation of the most basic norms related to human rights, in the naval base in Guantanamo which it has forced on us against our will.”
The statement continued: “The European Union has never said a word about the thousands of prisoners [who] the United States has kept locked up since September 11, often simply because of the way they look or because they are Muslims. These people do not enjoy even the most basic legal safeguards, nor have they been tried, and their names have not even been made public.”
It warned that the EU states would “be failing to meet their obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations if they allow themselves to be used for subversion against Cuba” and would take the necessary measures to stop any such activity.
The statement also declared that “Cuba knows that the Spanish government has been funding the annexationist and mercenary groups that the [US] superpower is trying to organise in our country”.
Two days after the protest, the Cuban government took control of the Spanish embassy’s cultural centre. “Far from promoting Spanish culture in our country – the reason it was created – it has maintained a program of activities unrelated to its original function, in open challenge of Cuban laws and institutions”, the Cuban foreign ministry said.
Washington is clearly having success in getting support from its partners in Europe for its anti-Cuba campaign. However, US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s appeal to Latin American leaders at the June 9-10 meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) – to join the US in seeking the overthrow of Cuba’s Communist-led government – fell largely on deaf ears.
In his address to the OAS summit – held in Santiago, Chile – Powell stated that “the people of Cuba increasingly look to the OAS for help in defending their fundamental freedoms”. During the next day’s closing statements, even as regional leaders vowed to fight poverty, corruption, and respect for human rights, Cuba didn’t even come up.
In a further rebuff to Washington, the OAS voted for the first time in its history against seating the US nominee – Rafael Martinez, a Cuban-American Republican Party official from Florida – for the body’s human rights commission.
Seeking to analyse Powell’s failure to elicit public endorsement for Washington’s anti-Cuba campaign, the Christian Science Monitor quoted Larry Birns, director of the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs lobby group in Washington:
“An emerging entente among Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela is raising the fundamental questions about whether neoliberal economic policy is even right for the region. In many ways, Castro has been asking those same questions. Many respect him for that.”
A more plausible explanation is that Latin American leaders know it would do nothing for their domestic popularity to line up with Washington in publicly attacking Cuba. The major improvements to quality of life that the Cuban Revolution has brought to working people are widely known and respected among Latin America’s impoverished voters.
Nestor Kirchner, Argentina’s newly elected, populist president came to office in what many see as a backlash against the previous government and its close economic ties with the US.
The Cuba issue strained US-Argentine relations last year when Argentina abstained from siding with the US in condemning Cuba over [alleged] human rights violations. Kirchner has been reluctant to criticize Castro as the Cuban president remains a popular revolutionary figure in Argentina.
At Kirchner’s inauguration two weeks ago in May, Fidel was heralded as a hero during an impromptu address to thousands on the streets of Buenos Aires.