CubaBrief: Open Letter to the EU Special Representative for Human Rights asks for pause or suspension of PDCA with Cuba. Meanwhile Cameron’s UK Cuba policy ignores reality, drawing protests

CubaBrief: Open Letter to the EU Special Representative for Human Rights asks for pause or suspension of PDCA with Cuba. Meanwhile Cameron’s UK Cuba policy ignores reality, drawing protests

#Cuba: Co-chairing the EU-Cuba Human Rights Dialogue. Agenda included freedom of expression, assembly and association, women’s rights, gender equality and social and economic rights. Recognised the impact of the embargo, and called for release of July ‘21 detainees” – Eamon Gilmore, Nov 24, 2023 on X.

The chairman of the Center for a Free Cuba, Guillermo Marmol, and its president Ambassador Otto J. Reich thanked Mr. Eamon Gilmore, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights for meeting with families of political prisoners, independent members of civil society in an e-mail sent on November 28, 2023. In the same e-mail they also requested that the 2016 EU Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Havana be suspended or paused.

The letter was sent in the aftermath of Gilmore’s visit to Cuba, and affirms concern for the situation of the more than a thousand political prisoners on the Island. They express their concern that the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been granted access to Cuba’s prisons, although the prison at the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base where terrorists are housed, have had over 100 visits since 2002.

The letter outlines how the European Parliament has denounced the human rights situation, has requested that Magnitsky sanctions be applied against senior officials of the regime who have committed human rights violations against Cubans, and has requested that the PDCA between Cuba and the European Union, which includes a human rights clause that, if violated, the agreement can be suspended or paused.

“Placing a pause on, or suspending the PDCA, would alert Havana to the priority placed by Europe on the plight of Cuban political prisoners, and would accelerate their release, and improved treatment. The four who’s families you met are representative of the over 1,000 political prisoners, who are jailed for exercising their fundamental rights,” observed Guillermo Marmol, and Ambassador Otto J. Reich in their letter to Mr. Gilmore.

There is cause for great concern.

In the aftermath of the visit Yindra Elizastigui Jardines, Luis Robles’s mother, felt “completely distressed” and initiated a hunger strike on November 25, 2023 following this meeting. In part, because she learned that the Cuban government had told Mr. Gilmore “that these people were imprisoned, but not for political reasons, that they had all the medical attention they needed and that they had never been mistreated.”

Eralidis Frómeta, wife of journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, reported that she had evaded State Security with the help of activists to reach the European Union (EU) Embassy  in Havana, and later reported over Facebook to CubaNet that the vehicle of one of the Cubans who helped her had been stolen.

European Union representatives should have held equally public and high profile meetings with dissidents, and family members of prisoners and requested they not be harassed. It is disappointing that meetings with dissidents, and family members of political prisoners not be included in Gilmore’s report with the same specificity provided for his meetings with representatives of the Cuban dictatorship.

The European Union since 2016 has had a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Havana that is providing tens of millions in subsidies to the communist dictatorship in Cuba. Eamon Gilmore, the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights visited Cuba last week to dialogue with representatives of the Castro regime, like Josep Borrell, of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and Federica Mogherini, who in her youth had been a member of the Italian Communist Youth, comes from the Left. Gilmore was a past member of the Democratic Left Party in Ireland that had split off from the Worker’s Party after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Gilmore had also been a member of the Workers’ Party. The Workers’ Party, a Marxist-Leninist party active in Ireland, itself had split off from Sinn Féin, but held close ties to the USSR. “The United Kingdom may have left the European Union, but some old habits die hard. “Top Cuban human rights campaigners have slammed Lord David Cameron’s first agreement as Foreign Secretary: a Political Dialogue and Cooperation agreement with Havana. Americas & Caribbean minister David Rutley flew to Havana last week to sign the agreement, watch events at ‘British Culture Week‘ and meet with ‘local entrepreneurs‘. There is no indication Rutley met with human rights campaigners or victims of the communist regime,” reported Global Guido earlier today. This is replicating the failed EU-Cuba policy so that UK taxpayers can pick up the tab of subsidizing rich communist oligarchs in Cuba through the the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). Rosa María Payá was quoted by Guido in the article:

Establishing political dialogue and cooperation with the communist dictatorship in Cuba is immoral and futile. Immoral because it validates a totalitarian regime that holds more than a thousand people imprisoned for having ideas different from those of the Communist Party of Cuba, subjecting them to torture, persecuting, and harassing their families. Futile because there is no benefit for the United Kingdom in such an agreement. The only beneficiary is the regime, which will receive resources without any conditions to continue strengthening its repressive apparatus.

We hope that the British Parliament rejects this agreement that does not benefit the interests of its people but serves the narrative of the Cuban dictatorship to whitewash its image internationally”.

The FCDO’s weak rebuttal in the same article:

An open dialogue with Cuba allows us to frankly discuss areas of serious concern, such as human rights, as well as areas of mutual agreement.During his recent visit to Cuba, Minister Rutley raised human rights, concerns about political prisoners and the transparency of the judicial process in his meetings with ministers, including with the Cuban Foreign Minister, and met with a range of Cuban human rights experts”

The FCDO is ignoring recent history, and seems to be suffering from the same amnesia that too many have had in the State Department and the White House.

U.S. policy makers over the years repeatedly sought to unconditionally engage the Castro regime, while unilaterally loosening sanctions, and each time the results led to negative outcomes, and a cooling of relations until a new crowd made another good faith effort, ignored past failures and repeated the cycle leaving a mess.

The Wall Street Journal’s Mary O’Grady revisited in her 2020 column “Biden’s Cuba Policy Ignores Reality” what happened to Stephen Purvis, a British businessman, who moved together with his family to Cuba and “as a top executive at his firm, he worked with the regime on a variety of joint ventures, including resorts, hotels and factories. Over a decade, he writes, ‘steadily our business grew into a respected company.’” This is what those who advocate a policy of engagement do not understand about the dictatorship in Cuba, and Mr. Purvis learned at a high cost that “Raúl [Castro] and a cadre of his military buddies worried about the status quo ‘turning into something uncontrollable.’ They decided to act by ‘methodically eradicating anything that [was] a threat’ including ‘every single high-ranking politician or business leader.’ There were ‘public purges’ of a few but ‘most were simply edited out’ and ‘replaced by military figures.'”

Learning this lesson cost Mr. Purvis 18 months of his freedom beginning in 2011 along with turmoil and terror for him and his family. Targeting businessmen and capitalists in a communist dictatorship should not be a surprise. Unfortunately, O’Grady’s column could be retitled “Cameron’s Cuba Policy Ignores Reality” and be all too timely today.

Global Guido, November 29, 2023

Human Rights Campaigners Slam Cameron’s Political Agreement with Communist Cuba

Top Cuban human rights campaigners have slammed Lord Cameron’s first agreement as Foreign Secretary: a Political Dialogue and Cooperation agreement with Havana. Americas & Caribbean minister David Rutley flew to Havana last week to sign the agreement, watch events at “British Culture Week” and meet with “local entrepreneurs“. There is no indication Rutley met with human rights campaigners or victims of the communist regime. Meanwhile, Cuba sends its citizens to fight for the Russians in Ukraine…

Leading Cuban human rights campaigner Rosa María Payá spoke to Guido:

Establishing political dialogue and cooperation with the communist dictatorship in Cuba is immoral and futile. Immoral because it validates a totalitarian regime that holds more than a thousand people imprisoned for having ideas different from those of the Communist Party of Cuba, subjecting them to torture, persecuting, and harassing their families. Futile because there is no benefit for the United Kingdom in such an agreement. The only beneficiary is the regime, which will receive resources without any conditions to continue strengthening its repressive apparatus.

We hope that the British Parliament rejects this agreement that does not benefit the interests of its people but serves the narrative of the Cuban dictatorship to whitewash its image internationally”.

Boris Gonzalez Arenas, pro-democracy campaigner and journalist, told Guido:

“Just reading the references to the meeting between Mr. David Rutley and the vice president of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs is enough to anger Cubans who demand respect from the international community, for the cause of our freedom.

The date of the signing of the document could not be more scandalous, when the communist regime faced the greatest international rejection for having allowed the death in prison of Luis Barrios Díaz, a political prisoner who had suffered for months from severe lung conditions without any medical attention, a crime that Mr Rutley and the FCDO help to cover up.

The Castro Foreign Ministry thanked, according to the text of the news published by Cubaminrex, the support of the United Kingdom for the Resolution against the United States embargo that Cuba presented at the United Nations. We Cuban activists pointed out years ago this European support for the Cuban dictatorship is a strategy favourable to European businessmen who wish to take advantage of the ban on American companies dictated by the embargo, to do business with the dictatorship.

This collusion between the authorities of the United Kingdom and the communist dictatorship, against the Cuban people, is undoubtedly bad news for Cuba“. Shortly after Guido spoke to Boris, Cuban state police blocked the exits to his apartment…

If the agreement is anything like one signed by the EU, it will agree to strengthen “political dialogue, cooperation, and economic and trade relations“, affirm the “principles of democracy, good governance and the rule of law“, and “strengthen political relations“. The text of the agreement won’t actually be published until spring when it is laid before Parliament, despite it being signed by both parties. Leaving no chance for MPs to scrutinise its contents for months…

UPDATE: An FCDO spokesman responds:

An open dialogue with Cuba allows us to frankly discuss areas of serious concern, such as human rights, as well as areas of mutual agreement. During his recent visit to Cuba, Minister Rutley raised human rights, concerns about political prisoners and the transparency of the judicial process in his meetings with ministers, including with the Cuban Foreign Minister, and met with a range of Cuban human rights experts”. Not that they’ll provide any actual details…

https://order-order.com/2023/11/29/human-rights-campaigners-slam-camerons-political-agreement-with-communist-cuba/

Center for a Free Cuba, November 28, 2023

Mr. Eamon Gilmore

European Union Special Representative for Human Rights

Dear Mr. Gilmore,

On behalf of the Center for Free Cuba, we thank you, Special Representative of the European Union (EU), for reiterating “the EU’s calls on the Cuban authorities to release those detained for the expression of their ideas and opinions” and meeting with relatives of Cuban prisoners of conscience listed below as well as members of independent civil society.

These are over 1,000 identified prisoners of conscience in Cuba. The European Union has been raising this matter for many many years within the 2016 framework of the EU Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Havana.

The European Parliament has repeatedly condemned Cuban government crackdowns, Havana’s breach of the PDCA due to its systematic human rights violations, called for Magnitsky sanctions to be applied against Cuban officials engaged in gross human rights violations, and called for the suspension of the PDCA, but these resolutions have not translated into action by the European External Action Service.

Years have passed, and there are five times more prisoners of conscience in Cuba today, than prior to the 2016 PDCA. Cuba has more political prisoners than all the other countries in the Americas combined. More than 700 of them serve long prison terms for their participation in nonviolent protests in July 2021 calling for freedom and the end of the dictatorship.

Havana has not paid attention to the repeated requests made by the EU to free political prisoners because the continuity of subsidies, trade, and political legitimacy from the European Union have not been threatened, much less paused.

Whereas, the International Committee of the Red Cross has inspected the U.S. prison at the Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba over 100 times since 2002,  the ICRC has not been permitted to visit Cuban prisons. 

Placing a pause on, or suspending the PDCA, would alert Havana to the priority placed by Europe on the plight of Cuban political prisoners, and would accelerate their release, and improved treatment. The four who’s families you met are representative of the rest, who are jailed for exercising their fundamental rights.

Thank you very much for anything you may be able to do to help the prisoners and their families, who are the target of the regime’s repression.

We look forward to your response.

Respectfully,

Guillermo Marmol

Chairman

Center for a Free Cuba

Ambassador Otto J. Reich

President

Center for a Free Cuba

https://www.cubacenter.org/

cc: John Suarez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2023/11/29/press-advisory-cfc-requests-the-eu-suspend-or-pause-the-2016-eu-pdca-with-havana-to-obtain-release-and-improved-conditions-for-cuban-prisoners-of-conscience-updated


From the archives


The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2020

Biden’s Cuba Policy Ignores Reality

Stephen Purvis’s harrowing story shows how engaging with the regime works in practice.

By Mary O’Grady

“The interrogations pluck me out of the never-ending routine of jail at random intervals. I am carried off down twisting and tortuous corridors and past padlocked doors with whimpering inmates to another parallel world. . . . the cheerful photo of Raúl smiling like a reluctant headmaster invites me to confess, or better still, denounce.” —Stephen Purvis, “Close But No Cigar” (2017)

Presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised to resurrect Obama-era Cuba policies that recognized the six-decade-old military dictatorship as a normal country. Diplomatic ties and American tourism and investment were supposed to foster Cuban liberation.

Critics predicted it would do the opposite. Legitimizing the tyranny and putting more dollars in the hands of the Castro Nostra, they said, would only fuel more repression.

Mr. Purvis’s memoir, grimly detailing his arrest and horrifying 18 months in Cuban jails, supports the view that economic engagement on its own is unlikely to soften Cuban despotism.

Full article here ]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/bidens-cuba-policy-ignores-reality-11598215175