After Visiting Brussels, my Opinion has Changed

Debating about the documentary “Grandchildren of the Revolution”

Meeting with EU Member Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White.

The Foreign Relations Minister of Spain, Trinidad Jimenez, assured from Brazil, where she was at a gathering of officials, that “the European Union should cease resorting to the so called Common Position towards Cuba” and adding that, “the Common Position is not useful for advancing relations” .  To me, the most contradictory thing about her statement is that, according to her, “there is a wide and generalized consensus that we need to start a new stage of relations with Cuba, leading to a more in depth form of dialogue”.

If we guide ourselves by the declarations made by the Minister, we would be under the notion that Europe considers that, with a few prison releases and a certain opening towards private initiative, the regime of Havana has reformed itself to the point that the conglomeration of countries which make up the Union should legitimize this dictatorship and cooperate with it, pushing ethics and the defense of rights aside.  With her supposed consensus, Jimenez wants to make us believe that Europe is giving its back to the return of real democracy to Cuba.  Everything is going well and down the right path in Cuba, and nothing else to do at all.

But after being invited by People in Need to visit Brussels from May 23rd to the 26th and after having participated in the “One World in Brussels” film festival, where I was part of a debate in one of the rooms of the European Parliament discussing the documentary made by Carlos Alberto Montaner- “The Grandchildren of the Revolution”- to my satisfaction my opinion has changed.  Europe, in its majority and with the exception of the socialist government of Spain, stands next to the Cuban people and is committed to cooperate with Civil Society so that human rights and the fundamental freedoms necessary for real democracy are respected.

The trip was made up four days of an intense program which gave us the opportunity to meet with European Parliament members and officials from the recently established European Service of Exterior Action.  With Jose Ignacio Salafranca, the Spanish EU Member of the Popular Party, we established contacts and a very close and cordial meeting.  He securely assured us that, as far as he and popular consensus go, Cuban democrats have their total support, and that they would continue to subordinate any relationship with the regime to concrete steps in terms of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms.  In the same vein, the position of Heidi Huatala, a EU Member of the Free European Alliance (the green group) who presides over the Human Rights Sub-Commission, is also in favor of Cubans.  She was very interested to learn more about the new repression tactics of the regime, which some analysts have labeled as “low intensity” but which are more generalized and specific.  Although at times it has been marked by violence, which have lead to the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia through circumstances which have not yet been cleared up.  She was especially interested in the actions taken by the so-called “Rapid Response” groups which can, and have, generated violent actions while masked behind the facade of popular spontaneity, when in reality they are nothing more than confrontation groups which are organized by the dictatorship’s State Security.

The meetings continued with EU Member Edvard Kozusnik, who represents the Czech Republic Conservative and Reformist European Party, with who Rolando Jimenez Posada and I shared a panel with during a debate about the documentary.  This is a man (Kozusnik) who in his adolescence lived through and got to know the final stages of communism in his country, something which has attracted and committed him to our cause which he considers to be one in the same.  He has challenged the regime of Havana and has suffered their attacks.  The meetings with the EU Members concluded with Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, the Secretary General of the European Popular Party.  We were able to hold a fraternal and open dialogue with him, where he assured us that as long as the Cuban government does not take real steps to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, then the European Common Position, which can only be repealed by the unanimous approval of the 27 member countries, will continue to be a valid political instrument used to pressure the regime of Havana to take concrete and tangible steps towards a democratic society.

In the European Service of Exterior Action we met with John Caloghirou, chief of the Caribbean Unit, who we shared our points of views with regarding the current reality of the Island, while he responded by saying that there is not yet anything defined in regards to relations with Cuba.  We also met with Davide Zaru from the Human Rights sector of the ministry.  David showed interesting in learning about all the violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights.  But not only was he interested in knowing, he also wanted to know how to help Cuban civil society to foster knowledge to do the same.  This is a necessary step so that a society, together, can demand and exercise its rights.

We could not pass by Brussels without coming into contact with Amnesty International, the National Democrat Institute, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Human Rights Federation, and the International Democrat Center- NGOs which dedicate themselves to promote human rights and which are present in that city located in the center of Europe.  I would like to thank them all for all they have done and continue doing so that the Cuban reality becomes known on an international level, informing the world on all the human rights violations committed by the Castro regime.

I returned to Spain worn out from such an extensive program, but satisfied with knowing that in this struggle to achieve democracy and respect of fundamental rights in Cuba we are not alone, and that we can count on many friends who are committed to our cause.

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