Crunch time on Cuba - Britain and the European Common Position
Campaign News | Friday, 9 June 2006
Rob Miller writes for the Morning Star newspaper
Crunch time on Cuba
ON June 12, the British government will have to make a choice about its foreign policy towards Cuba. The European common position, which is an agreed policy between all the European states vis-a-vis their relations with Cuba, will again be reviewed.
Will Britain follow the lead from Washington for a policy of isolation, intervention and eventual occupation or will our government side with those countries that see a policy of discussion and engagement as the way forward.
Last November, the US so-called "Cuba transition co-ordinator" Caleb McCarry toured Europe in a frantic lobbying exercise aimed at building European support for an aggressive policy towards Cuba, a policy written in Miami, developed in Washington and propagated by the likes of former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who, since his retirement, has made it his crusading mission to win international support for anti-Cuban and anti-socialist policy.
McCarry previously played a role in undermining democracy and human rights in Haiti on the road to creating a situation the UN described as "catastrophic."
He now has the role of seeking to build international support for the plan of forced regime change of the US government's ominously named Commission for a Transition to a Free Cuba.
In response to McCarry's visit to London, over 170 MPs from across all parties have signed early day motion (EDM) 1959 on the EU common position on Cuba. The EDM aims to bring together all those who wish to see an independent and positive position of engagement with Cuba, rather than one of subservience to the aggressive policy of interference practised by the Bush administration.
The motion was tabled by Dr Ian Gibson MP, who also chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Cuba. "Support for Cuba is at an all-time high across parliamentary parties, as demonstrated by EDM 1959. The government needs to adapt its themes for the coming EU debate," he says.
The breadth of support for the EDM again illustrates that those of us who disagree with an aggressive line towards Cuba undoubtedly represent the majority of public opinion. This is a very clear message for any hawkish elements within Britain.
Ten Conservative MPs, half the Liberal Democrat MPs and well over 100 Labour MPs have added their names. The government should realise the strength of feeling on its own benches and across the House not to allow ourselves to be pushed into backing Bush on this issue.
The signatures of former ministers such as Clare Short, Joan Ruddock and Glenda Jackson show the support of the mainstream of the labour movement for Cuba's right to self-determination - something confirmed by the lobbying work that many trade unions are doing on the issue.
The strong feeling in the house was illustrated in March when over 200 people packed into a House of Commons public meeting organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. They heard from the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Eumelio Caballero Rodriguez and Colin Burgon MP express clearly the concern surrounding the future of British-Cuban relations in the build-up to the June review.
Concerns that Britain may move towards the US position on Cuba heightened after Tony Blair's well-documented reply to a question from Burgon concerning shifts to the left in Latin America.
Although he had not been asked directly about Cuba, the Prime Minister responded by condemning Venezuela's alliance with the island, prompting some to express concern that lobbying from Washington on the issue had had an influence.
Certainly, the first public attack on Cuba and, indeed, Venezuela from a British prime minister for some time was far from welcomed by all those who support good relations between Britain and the region.
As Burgon explains, the issue of US influence over government policy is not one that is going to be ignored by MPs.
"Many are aware and many more of us in Parliament are becoming aware of how the US right-wing lobby operates. The act of despatching Caleb McCarry to EU member states to influence their policies is transparent interference and we should all reject it.
"It is vital that the Cuban people decide their own destiny without external pressure. That message is crystal clear from all sides of the House," says Burgon.
The government itself has not done enough to allay many of the concerns raised by MPs. Instead, the government has continued to avoid questions about the November meeting with McCarry and any other meetings that have taken place.
In one short response on McCarry's visit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Minister for State Douglas Alexander declared: "It is entirely normal for Foreign Office officials to meet equivalent officials in the US State Department to discuss matters of mutual interest."
Yet, as far as we are aware, Britain doesn't have an "equivalent" for McCarry. We don't have a commission for regime change. Indeed, if our government has a current policy of constructive engagement with Cuba, as does the European Union, then why is it even entertaining McCarry, who advocates a policy of aggression towards an eventual occupation of the island?
The fact that journalists as well as MPs have been unable to find out what was discussed at the meeting and have been unable to ascertain clearly what other discussions have taken place only serves to heighten concerns, especially considering that the original meeting took place in an air of secrecy.
It is crucial that the British government works to promote closer links and better relationships with Cuba at all levels in the period ahead.
All Morning Star readers whose MP has not yet signed the EDM should urge them to add their name before the deadline next Monday June 12.
"That this House recognises efforts by the government to cement positive relations with Cuba, identifies the 48 per cent decrease in United Kingdom exports to Cuba since 2000 as unwelcome and in direct contrast to increased trade between Cuba and other EU partners, notes the continued aggressive lobbying of EU member states by the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which promotes a tightening of extra territorial elements of the illegal blockade which affect EU-Cuba relations, acknowledges that despite differences between the two countries, cultural, scientific, sporting and trade links should be protected and built upon and calls on the United Kingdom government to maintain and develop its independent approach of positive engagement towards Cuba when the EU common position on Cuba is reviewed in June."
Has your MP signed up?
The complete list of MPs who had signed the EDM as of yesterday is as follows:
Ian Gibson, Nigel Evans, John Pugh, Glenda Jackson, Adam Price, Colin Burgon, Jim Sheridan, Peter Kilfoyle, Hywel Francis, Desmond Turner, Bob Wareing, Joan Ruddock, Paul Holmes, Lynne Jones, David Lepper, Michael Connarty, Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Dismore, David Drew, Michael Ancram, Roger Williams, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, Joan Humble, David Marshall, Chris McCafferty, Alan Meale, Ronnie Campbell, Derek Conway, Ann Cryer, John Cummings, Paul Flynn, Mike Hancock, Peter Bottomley, Rudi Vis, Jim Devine, Bob Russell, Alan Simpson, Simon Hughes, Brian Jenkins, Paul Keetch, Mark Lazarowicz, Sandra Osborne, Colin Breed, Martin Caton, Janet Dean, Lynne Featherstone, Sian C James, Mark Lancaster, Julie Morgan, Rob Marris, Alasdair McDonnell, Bill Etherington, David Hamilton, Betty Williams, Mike Wood, David Anderson, Katy Clark, Daniel Rogerson, Tony Lloyd, Jon Trickett, Helen Goodman, Linda Riordan, Ann McKechin, Mark Todd, Stephen Williams, Lembit Opik, Richard Burden, Jim Dobbin, Gary Streeter, David Wiltshire, John Hemming, Timothy Farron, Andrew Pelling, Mohammad Sarwar, Dennis Skinner, Dai Havard, Brian Iddon, Piara S Khabra, Harry Cohen, David Crausby, Austin Mitchell, George Galloway, Diane Abbott, John Austin, Norman Baker, Roger Berry, David Taylor, Geraldine Smith, Ian Davidson, Robert Walter, Jim McGovern, Nick Harvey, George Howarth, Kevan Jones, Gerald Kaufman, Roger Godsiff, Joe Benton, Joan Walley, Marsha Singh, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Karen Buck, Mark Fisher, Don Foster, Patrick Hall, John Leech, Martin Salter, Kelvin Hopkins, Eric Illsley, Gordon Marsden, Denis Murphy, Edward O'Hara, Frank Cook, Frank Dobson, Celia Barlow, Paul Rowen, John Maples, Jim Cunningham, John Battle, Kerry McCarthy, Chris Ruane, Colin Challen, Michael Clapham, Frank Doran, John Grogan, Andrew Stunell, Nia Griffith, Mark Williams, Stephen Pound, Adrian Sanders, Clare Short, Vincent Cable, Sandra Gidley, Evan Harris, Albert Owen, Tom Brake, Nicholas Brown, David Clelland, Janet Anderson, Paul Truswell, Derek Wyatt, Lyn Brown, Mark Hunter, Andrew Love, Mark Durkan, Frank Field, Neil Gerrard, Clive Betts, Ian Stewart, Gavin Strang, Graham Stringer, Emily Thornberry, Phyllis Starkey, Martyn Jones, Brian H Donohoe, Dari Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Richard Taylor, Hywel Williams, Meg Hillier, Angus MacNeil, David Heyes, Ben Chapman, Elfyn Llwyd, Phil Willis, Stewart Hosie, Jimmy Hood, Chris Mullin, Fabian Hamilton, Hugh Bayley, Howard Stoate, Sarah Teather, Pete Wishart, Richard Younger-Ross, Jenny Willott.
? Rob Miller is the director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. More information on the campaign is available from firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is from the Morning Star newspaper, Thursday 8 June 2006:
Campaign postcards and more information are available from:
The up to date list of signatories can be accessed at:
More details at www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk