Cuba, The European Parliament and the Death of a Dissident

, by Alessio Pisanò

Cuba, The European Parliament and the Death of a Dissident

Something is seriously wrong with the world if in this day and age some political activists are still left to starve to death in jail. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42 year old Cuban activist died in a Cuban hospital following a 85 day hunger strike.

During a plenary session of the European Parliament, MEPs condemned the cruel death of the imprisoned political dissident and voted on a join resolution calling for more respect for the human rights of the prisoner in Cuba. A large majority of MEPs backed the resolution which was tabled by all the political groups in the parliament.

This resolution caused a vastly disapproving reaction from the Cuban government, who responded by issuing a number of strong statements calling on the EU to stay away from their national affairs. The ’PorCuba’ website has been created to denounce the ’media siege’ enacted by Raúl Castro’s government and aims to collect signatures from people all over the world to support their cause. Currently under fire from The Cuban Government’s ’media siege’ is the USA for their alleged ’media rage’ against Havana as a powerful ’propaganda offensive’.

Some may say that aside from the deepening of the Cuban political home affairs, one unchangeable fact remains: a man is dead. No objections can be raised with this argument. Others then may point to another fact: according to reliable humanitarian associations, dozens of journalists, peaceful dissidents and human rights activists are supposedly also held in jail in Cuba. On 26th February, Amnesty International cited its 55th ’Prisoner of Conscience’ in Cuba and urged President Raul Castro for the immediate and unconditional release of said prisoner. Even Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Raul Castro’s government has locked up scores of people for exercising their fundamental freedoms, far more than his brother Fidel Castro had done so. The 123-page HRW report on the topic, released in November 2009, bears the meaningful title: “New Castro, Same Cuba”.

Nevertheless, the Cuban government still talks about a ’world wide plot’ to damage it’s international reputation. Cuban representatives refer to the many years interference of the United States in their home affairs, in particular to the CIA activities aiming to undermine the social, political and economic order created by the Cuban revolution. Those who the whole world calls ’dissidents’, Cuba government calls ’traitors’. Those who the whole world calls ’peaceful activists’, Cuba government calls ’dangerous enemies’. Supporters of this theory believe that the USA is continuing to support dissident activities in Cuba in order to introduce a western style democracy on the island, replacing the ’real socialism’ created by Fidel Castro after the ’glorious revolution’. According to such supporters, ’treason’ and ’dissident activities’ make a difference. This sounds very much like the difference between ’terrorists’ and ’guerrillas’ in the Iraqi war. The risk is that everyone chooses the definition more suitable to the their own credence and political view.

Supporters of this theory believe that the USA is continuing to support dissident activities in Cuba in order to introduce a western style democracy on the island

The European Parliament decided to enter the debate through the front door. With the joint resolution backed by the majority of the MEPs, the EP did not intend to shed some light on the issue, but just to request more respect of human rights in Cuba. Is this a political interference in the Cuban home affairs? Yes it is, but the EP could not help doing so if the EU wants to confirm its main role on the international politics stage. Indeed, the joint resolution must not be seen as a political condemnation to the government in Havana, even if many want so. Cuban representatives could help the EU to shed light on the matter rather than blaming its intervention. Indeed, the EU has already shown to be able to express an independent judgement on international issues as the last Gaza conflict and the Goldstone report shows.

The EP Delegation for the Central America (DCAM) might be a perfect way to get to the core of the issue, keeping ideological views far away. Strengthening the collaboration with DCAM, Castro’s government could go beyond the alleged ’propaganda’ to communicate ’its truth’. In order to gain this goal, the delegation should be supplied with all the professional instruments and notions to deeply understand the Cuban reality.

The European Parliament decided to enter the debate through the front door... for the moment, the EP resolution must be welcomed as a step towards a peacekeeping role for the EU

For the moment, the EP resolution must be welcomed as a step towards a peacekeeping role for the EU. In spite of the different ’labels’ given to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, we cannot help welcoming a text which ’condemns the pre-emptive detention of activists’, ’calls for the release of political prisoners’ and ’urges the Council and the Commission to step up action to promote guarantees for the work of human rights defenders’.

Image: Raul castro, source: Google Images

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