CubaBrief: Lithuanian parliament refuses to ratify EU-Cuba deal. Seven Members of Congress send letter to European Union urging them to stand in unequivocal solidarity with the Cuban people

Two key developments on European front with regards to Cuba policy became public yesterday.

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First, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, Congressman Albio Sires, Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Congressman Alex X. Mooney, and Congressman Carlos A. Jimenez wrote to the European Union (EU) on June 30, 2021 “to urge the European Union (EU) to stand in unequivocal solidarity with the Cuban people and to refuse to expand trade or diplomatic relations with the oppressive Cuban regime until basic freedoms and human rights are recognized. Specifically, we request that you demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, the legalization of free expression, independent media, political parties, and labor unions, and the scheduling of free, fair, multiparty elections for the long-oppressed people of Cuba.”

Second, in Vilnius, the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, passed a resolution on June 30, 2021 with 82 votes in favour and 17 abstentions resolving “that the Government of the Republic of Cuba may not be encouraged to keep pursuing its current path by remaining quiet on these ongoing realities, and that it is not policy-wise to ratify the political dialogue and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Cuba and to create favourable conditions for the Government of the Republic of Cuba to allow the regime of the Republic of Cuba to continue implementing its dangerous regional strategy and to strengthen the oppression of the people of the Republic of Cuba.”

The document also declared “in strong and unequivocal terms, that the regime of the Republic of Cuba and its relations with the Russian Federation, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the regime’s support for terrorist organisations funded by drug trafficking, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia’s guerilla group National Liberation Army (ELN), are a threat to the neighboring states and societies of Latin America.”

On June 10, 2021  the European Parliament (EP)  passed a resolution on the human rights and political situation in Cuba (2021/2745(RSP)) with 386 voting for the resolution, 236 against the resolution, and 59 abstaining that not only condemned the human rights and political conditions in Cuba, but voiced its displeasure with the “current EU Ambassador in Havana [who] has publicly made statements affirming that ‘Cuba is not a dictatorship.’”

Lithuania remains the only EU member state not to have ratified the political dialogue and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Cuba (PDCA).

Sadly, Spain has not exercised the solidarity on behalf of democracy and human rights for the people of Cuba that Lithuania has done and continues to demonstrate today with their courageous and principled stand. 

Lietuvos radijas ir televizija, July 1, 2021

Lithuanian parliament refuses to ratify EU-Cuba deal

BNS2021.07.01 09:37

The Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, passed a resolution on Wednesday, saying it was not “politically appropriate” to ratify the European Union’s (EU) cooperation agreement with Cuba. Lithuania remains the only member state not to have ratified the deal.

In the document, the Seimas “states strongly and unequivocally that the regime of the Republic of Cuba and its relations with the Russian Federation, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Islamic Republic of Iran and support to terrorist organisations financed through drug trafficking pose a threat to neighbouring countries and societies of the Latin American region”.

“The government of Cuba cannot be encouraged to keep following the same old tracks while keeping silent about the said realities,” the document says, and “it is not politically appropriate to ratify the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the EU and Cuba”.

The resolution was passed by 82 votes in favour and 17 abstentions.

The resolution also claims that Cuba is pursuing a “dangerous regional strategy” and “oppression of the people of the Republic of Cuba”.

The draft resolution was submitted by 35 MPs, including Parliament Speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Žygimantas Pavilionis, conservative MPs Emanuelis Zingeris, Laima Liucija Andrikienė and others.

Earlier, the US administration called on Lithuania not to ratify the EU-Cuba pact.

Lithuania remains the only EU member states yet to ratify the agreement signed in 2016.

https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1442832/lithuanian-parliament-refuses-to-ratify-eu-cuba-deal

Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, June 30, 2021

RESOLUTION

OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA

30 June 2021 No XIV –

Vilnius

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

recalling that the freedom and democracy of the Republic of Lithuania was born from its protracted and painful, but ultimately successful struggle against the Nazi and Communist totalitarianisms,

noting, that the Republic of Lithuania is fully aware of the new forms of destructive activities carried out by the post-communist Russian Federation and its allies against neighbouring states and Western democracies,

having, regard to the fact that, since its alliance with the former USSR, the Republic of Cuba has remained a totalitarian state, where the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law are not adhered to, basic human rights and freedoms are not respected, and a multi-party system able to respond to people’s expectations remains abolished,

noting that the Government of the Republic of Cuba remains one of the closest allies of the Russian Federation and that these two states are the world’s key pillars in sustaining the illegitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Venezuela) through hybrid warfare strategies,

noting that interference by the Republic of Cuba in foreign affairs and its role in inciting violent conflicts and unrest in the region have been proved by the governmental, law enforcement and intelligence authorities of the United States of America, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay,

witnessing that the Government of the Republic of Cuba has repeatedly been urged to abandon these practices and extended a friendly helping hand by leaders of the European Union, the United States of America and Latin America, but this has had no effect on the development of democracy on the island,

emphasizing that, apart from a minor generational switch at some formal power positions, the true reform of the centralized economy in the Republic of Cuba has not taken place and the tools of the totalitarian police and justice systems have not been abandoned, but, quite on the contrary, the latter have actually been strengthened,

emphasizing that there has emerged a military monopoly of several corporations controlled by the army – Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), acting as a shady mafia state in the state, not audited by any other national institution,

noting that the state of Cuba has centralised most of the country’s economy and almost all economic activities generating income in hard currency, including communications, tourism, remittances, and human trafficking of Cuban professionals, particularly of the so-called medical brigades,

adding that the current harsh repression by the regime of the Republic of Cuba against, among others, the freedom of thought, expression, press, movement, association, academic research, and religion represents the greatest challenge for the democratic governments which have extended the government of the Republic of Cuba the benefit of the doubt,

declares, in strong and unequivocal terms, that the regime of the Republic of Cuba and its relations with the Russian Federation, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as the regime’s support for terrorist organisations funded by drug trafficking, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia’s guerilla group National Liberation Army (ELN), are a threat to the neighboring states and societies of Latin America,

resolves that the Government of the Republic of Cuba may not be encouraged to keep pursuing its current path by remaining quiet on these ongoing realities, and that it is not policy-wise to ratify the political dialogue and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Cuba and to create favourable conditions for the Government of the Republic of Cuba to allow the regime of the Republic of Cuba to continue implementing its dangerous regional strategy and to strengthen the oppression of the people of the Republic of Cuba;    

expresses solidarity with the victims of repression, affected by the ongoing persecution, targeting members of the opposition, dissidents, and citizens demanding fundamental political, civil, economic, cultural rights.

demands respect for the life and freedom of movement of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a humble young artist who went into a hunger strike in protest against the destruction of his works and the constant police harassment and threats, and the immediate return of his works of art stolen by the secret police;

demands immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners (over one hundred), imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights, as well as the group of activists associated with the Movimiento San Isidro, now uncommunicated in Cuban Lubyankas and Gulags, such as Maykel Castillo (Osorbo), Denis Solis, Luis Robles Elizástegui, and others such as the Obispo 6, who were detained when peacefully demanding to have access to Otero Alcantara. The six non-violent protesters are Inti Soto Romero, Thais Mailén Franco, Esteban Rodríguez, Mary Karla Ares, Yuisan Cancio Vera, and Luis Ángel Cuza Alfonso;

demands immediate withdrawal of police forces which are now enforcing illegal home detention of various pro-democracy activists, independent journalists, and artists, including world renowned artist Tania Bruguera.

Speaker of the Seimas                                                                    Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen

Source: https://twitter.com/Zingeris/status/1410305624865447936

June 30, 2021 Letter to the European Union on Cuba policy by seven Members of Congress

June 30, 2021

H.W. Charles Michel

President of the European Commission

Brussels, Belgium 

H.E. Josep Borrell Fontelles

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Vice President of the European Commission

Brussels, Belgium

David Sassoli, MEP

President of the European Parliament

Brussels, Belgium

Dear President Michel, High Representative Borrell, and President Sassoli,

We write to ensure that you are aware of the deteriorating human rights situation in Cuba, including the brutal crackdown on independent artists, musicians, and writers of the San Isidro Movement, as well as repression against other human rights activists throughout the island.

The oppressive nature of the dictatorship in Cuba has not changed despite the transfer of titles and sham, one-party “elections.” In fact, the regime has only continued to further entrench and expand its power. For example, it has cracked down on expression by independent Cuban artists, musicians, writers, and journalists of the San Isidro Movement with beatings, arrests, and internet blackouts. In addition, the regime cracked down on pro-democracy leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, who engaged in a hunger strike when the regime prohibited him and other members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) from distributing food to hungry Cubans from the organization’s headquarters. Ferrer, who was imprisoned during the infamous “Black Spring” of 2003, has once again been subject to severe abuse, imprisonment, and other forms of harassment for daring to oppose the regime in Cuba. For these reasons, renowned NGO Freedom House has labeled Cuba as “Not Free,” stating that, “Cuba’s one-party communist state outlaws political pluralism, bans independent media, suppresses dissent, and severely restricts basic civil liberties… The regime’s undemocratic character has not changed despite a generational transition in political leadership between 2018 and 2019 that included the introduction of a new constitution.”

The regime in Cuba also has a long history of racism. Almost no high level positions within the regime are occupied by Afro-Cubans. In addition, many of those who suffered the worst treatment at the hands of Castro’s thugs were Afro-Cubans, such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, Berta Soler of the Ladies in White, Guillermo Farinas, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and many more. The repression against Afro-Cubans continues with brutal arrests against members of the San Isidro Movement, including internet blackouts to prevent members from communicating with each other and raising awareness of these human rights abuses.

In addition to the severe repression on the island, the regime in Cuba continues to destabilize countries in the Western Hemisphere by propping up the dictatorships in Venezuela and Nicaragua, supporting international terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and harboring fugitives from U.S. justice including one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists, Joanne Chesimard, terrorist bomb maker William Morales, and hijacker Charles Hill. Secretary General Luis Almagro of the Organization of American States (OAS) has stated that Cuba has an “occupation army” of thousands of Cuban military and intelligence agents inside Venezuela, propping up the Maduro regime. Due to the skyrocketing poverty, crime, and repression, nearly five million Venezuelans have fled the country, placing enormous strains on the region to meet dire humanitarian needs. The Cuban regime’s influence in Venezuela has contributed to the hardship by assisting with repression. The U.S. State Department’s 2020 Report on Human Rights Practices stated that—

State security officials frequently deployed to countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, where they trained and supported other organizations in their use of repressive tactics and human rights abuses and sometimes participated in the abuses directly. For instance, Cuban security force members were embedded in the Maduro regime’s security and intelligence services in Venezuela and were instrumental in transforming Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) from a small organization focused on external threats to a much larger organization focused on surveilling Venezuelans and suppressing dissent. UN reports accused the DGCIM of torture, and many former Venezuelan prisoners said that Cubans, identified by their distinctive accents, supervised while DGCIM personnel tortured prisoners.

A December 2019 report from the Casla Institute, a Czech Republic-based NGO focused on governance in Latin America, stated the Cuban ambassador in Venezuela was personally involved in organizing this training. The Casla Institute report also stated, “Cubans constantly instruct members of the FANB [Venezuelan armed forces] and intelligence in techniques of repression, intimidation, and monitoring, so that they carry out investigation work and spy on their own colleagues and their families and political and social leaders, and directly intervene in social unrest.”

The Cuban regime’s malignancy is not confined to its borders, but has contributed to repression, violence, and destabilization throughout the Western Hemisphere.

We are also alarmed that the EU member states seem to look toward Spain for leadership in matters pertaining to the Western Hemisphere. Spain has historically had a poor record in our hemisphere and, in the case of Cuba, was forced to leave Cuba once the Cuban people won their independence. After decades of attempts by the Cuban people to rid their country of oppressive Spanish rule, the United States provided military support to the Cuban people in their war of independence. The Cuban people ultimately prevailed. It is ironic that more than a hundred years after the Cuban people won their independence, its former colonial oppressors now seek to strengthen the Cuban people’s modern-day oppressors. Given Spain’s specious record in Cuba, we urge you instead to heed the counsel of EU member states, such as Lithuania, that have undergone their own democratic transitions away from Communist totalitarianism. In fact, it was the European Community’s (EC) steadfast dedication to democracy as a prerequisite to membership throughout the 1960s and 1970s that decisively contributed to the democratic transitions in Spain and Portugal. The economic and political pressures from the EC, conditioning full European membership on a commitment to democratic principles, proved instrumental to the institutional reforms in the Iberian peninsula. Regrettably, Spain has not exercised the solidarity on behalf of democracy and human rights for the Cuban people that the European Community demonstrated for the people of Spain and Portugal. Just as international solidarity was essential to bringing freedom to the countries behind the Iron Curtain, and to Spain and Portugal, it is essential to promoting a democratic transition in totalitarian Cuba. Countries such as Lithuania are in an optimal position to guide Europe on the critical matter of transitions from totalitarianism to democracy.

The Cuban people have suffered for decades under dictatorial rule, in large part due to the lack of international solidarity. We urge you to consider the power that a concerted effort to support the Cuban people in their democratic aspirations could have to cause transformational, democratic change. We commend those member states such as Lithuania that have stood firm in supporting human rights and basic liberties in Cuba, and we urge all EU member states to similarly affirm these basic principles. When the Cuban people finally achieve their freedom, they will remember those who stood with them.

We write to urge the European Union (EU) to stand in unequivocal solidarity with the Cuban people and to refuse to expand trade or diplomatic relations with the oppressive Cuban regime until basic freedoms and human rights are recognized. Specifically, we request that you demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, the legalization of free expression, independent media, political parties, and labor unions, and the scheduling of free, fair, multiparty elections for the long-oppressed people of Cuba.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Rick Scott

Congressman Mario Diaz Balart

Congressman Albio Sires

Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Congressman Alex X. Mooney

Congressman Carlos A. Jimenez

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2021/7/1/june-30-2021-letter-to-the-european-union-on-cuba-policy-by-seven-members-of-congress