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)

Press Advisory

Center for a Free Cuba requests the European Union suspend or pause the 2016 EU Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Havana to obtain release, and improved conditions for Cuban prisoners of conscience. (Updated)

Contacts: John Suarez  (612)-367-6845 and Janisset Rivero (786)-208-6056 

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC, November 29, 2023. The chairman of the Center for a Free Cuba, Guillermo Marmol, and its president Ambassador Otto J. Reich thanked for meeting with families of political prisoners, independent members of civil society, and requested this Tuesday, November 28, 2023 in an e-mail sent to Mr. Eamon Gilmore, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, 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,” said said John Suarez, executive director, Center for a Free Cuba.

The text of the e-mail is reproduced below.

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

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