Posted on Mon, Jun. 18, 2007
When the European parliament meets today, it should not lift the
sanctions it imposed on Cuba after its ruthless crackdown on dissidents
in 2003. If anything, the EU should reimpose the diplomatic freeze that
was suspended in 2005. To do away with the current policy altogether
would reward the communist regime for refusing to free jailed dissidents
and continuing to deprive Cubans of fundamental rights.
Fortunately, despite Spain's strong support, the initial proposal to
drop all sanctions failed to gain enough support last week. So EU
members are set to keep sanctions in place. Credit the Czech Republic,
Poland, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden and other nations who understand
that human rights continue to deteriorate in Cuba.
Critics of sanctions say these measures haven't worked in Cuba. But
diplomatic and commercial engagement, which the EU member countries
practiced for years, haven't propelled democratic change, either.
Cuba's dictatorship continues to jail political prisoners and to deny
rights that free nations cherish, from freedom of speech to the right to
own property. Cubans are barred from tourist resorts in their own
homeland and from traveling abroad without government permission. The
regime controls all mass media, including the Internet. The conditions
that prompted the EU's sanctions in 2003 are unchanged. If anything,
repression and privation have worsened since the power shift to Raúl
Castro last year.
Cuba remains an ironclad police state that will change only when
circumstances inside or outside the island force it to happen.
Democracy advocates, such as those thrown in prison in 2003, keep hope
alive for Cuba's future. The EU parliament commendably shone an
international spotlight on their work by awarding the prestigious
Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Cuban dissidents twice: to the
Ladies in White in 2005 and Oswaldo Payá in 2002. By maintaining
diplomatic contact and support, the EU helps them continue their
valuable work in the face of constant persecution.
No visit to dissidents
That's why Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos' visit to
Cuba in April was such a disappointment. In Spain's eagerness to
reengage the regime, he declined to meet with any dissidents. Whatever
he may have said to Cuban officials about human rights, his actions sent
the wrong message: that what happens to dissidents is not a concern to
Spain. That is no way to support Cuba's opposition or transition to
Diplomatic rewards should only be given when Cuba shows intent to
improve, when it releases political prisoners and stops abusing human
rights. Until then, the EU should maintain its sanctions.