In Havana on May 1, Secretary General José Luis Centella and other leaders of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) joined their hosts, the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, in celebrating International Workers’ Day. Afterwards Centella conferred with Cuban President Raúl Castro and Political Bureau member José Ramón Machado Ventura.
The visit took place as a U.S. and European media campaign, orchestrated particularly by right wing Spanish publications, reached full throttle. Serving as pretext was the death from a hunger strike of Cuban prisoner Orlando Zapata who had been jailed for non-political crimes. He has been cast as a political prisoner.
At a press conference before returning to Spain, José Luis Centella demanded an end to the European Union’s so-called “Common Position,” which conditions any full European opening to the island on Cuban protection of human rights. Former right wing Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar instigated the Common Position in 1996 and has quarterbacked anti-Cuban media and governmental campaigns since then.
Centella suggested that the EU summit with Caribbean and Latin American nations, celebrated in May in Spain, represents a “magnificent opportunity” to end unilateral hostility toward Cuba.
The Spanish La República newspaper published Guillermo Nova’s interview with José Luis Centella on May 13. W. T. Whitney Jr. translated.
José Luís Centella: “They blame Cuba for not knuckling under.”
Interview with the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Spain.
At some points during the heavy European attacks against Cuba for its policies on human rights, the Communist Party of Spain has wanted to reaffirm its commitment to the Cuban revolution. That’s why a high level delegation visited the island. In a break during its tight agenda, we interviewed its Secretary General Jose Luis Centella in Havana. He had been received by the Cuban President Raul Castro.
On balance what do you make of your visit to Cuba?
It’s been a positive and very productive visit that has allowed us to exchange ideas with the top political leadership of the country, but also to speak with many citizens through whom we’ve been able to gain first hand acquaintance with the Cuban reality. All this experience lends urgency to a series of commitments with which we’ll work in the coming months in Spain.
Coming from Spain are very hard criticisms of Cuba in regard to human rights. What is the position of the Communist Party of Spain in that regard?
These criticisms come from an enormous cynicism which revealed hidden interests in this campaign that are nothing more than an attempt to keep the European Union from abandoning the common position. As far as the Spanish Communists go, we have no problem in speaking of human rights and participating in whatever discussion, anytime. We won’t employ any trickery. We’ll speak of human rights in Havana but also in New York, in Seville, or in Madrid. We will balance things. But what we are not going to do is enter into any discussion that tries to manipulate the Cuban reality, one that tries to de-legitimize a revolution that keeps on representing hope for many men and women throughout the world.
Within the full agenda for the PCE delegation, elucidate the personal meeting you had with President Raul Castro. How was it?
It was a friendly encounter, as it could not have been otherwise between comrades. It was very interesting to exchange opinions on Cuban and Spanish realities. Based on the meeting, I can testify to how the Cuban government is on the way toward obtaining maximum efficiency in acting for peace, taking maximum advantage of Cuba’s own resources.
Spain is the President of the European Union for this term. Do you think that the Common Position ought to be changed?
The Common Position of the European Union has no parallel. In no way is it justified. It’s a hypocritical decision, because while Morocco is no example of defending human rights, it’s treated like a favored partner. That means that for the European Union, they are not interested in human rights. What is important is business and submission. And Cuba is punished for not submitting. On that account, we ask for the end of the Common Position, because it makes no sense that a parameter be applied to Cuba that spares all other countries.
Presently there are five Cubans imprisoned in the United States for fighting terrorist actions against the Cuban people. What ought to be the Obama’s administration’s position in the matter?
As long as they don’t free the Five and while there are self confessed terrorists like Posada Carriles walking around and leading demonstrations in Miami, the U.S. war on terrorism lacks all credibility. We see it as a shame before humanity, because they are imprisoned strictly for having acted to prevent attacks.
That’s why we demand that the Obama government liberate the Five, that it no longer commit itself to the posture it inherited of punishing Cuba, that it no longer engage in an attitude of submission to what are probably hidden schemes against Cuba. We demand they free five persons who committed no crime other than having fought terrorism.