Cuba, the European Union and Spain

As part of Washington’s decades-long project to isolate the Cuban revolution, Caleb McCarry recently undertook an eight-nation European tour. It came after a visit to Cuba in early April by Spain’s foreign minister to sign agreements with his Cuban counterpart — the first visit from a high-level European diplomat in four years.

McCarry, coordinator of the Bush administration’s “Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba,” attended a conference staged in Berlin, April 26-27, by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, founded in 2003 by former Czech President Václav Havel. Present at the session were notables such as Havel and former presidents Lech Walesa of Poland and Luis Lacalle of Uruguay.

European parliamentarians were there, along with nongovernmental officials, Cuban Americans and anti-government Cubans, including Oswaldo Payá, Vladimiro Roca and Martha Beatriz Roque.

Speakers focused on anticipated changes coinciding with new Cuban leadership. Participant Frank Calzon, long associated with U.S.-funded anti-Cuban projects, has agitated against Cuba within the Czech Republic and other former Soviet bloc nations.

Representatives of those nations were in Miami in February to form the “Friends of a Democratic Cuba.”

The Czech Republic heads a so-called “pro-civil-society group” within the European Union aimed at promoting anti-Cuban policies. The group sees a European Commission meeting in June as crucial for its cause. A decision will be made then as to continuing a policy in effect for two years of withholding sanctions against Cuba, sanctions that were imposed in June 2003.

EU nations imposed the sanctions in reaction to Cuba’s jailing in April 2003 of 75 government opponents, self-described journalists and librarians, found to be on the U.S. payroll. The EU countries cut back on humanitarian aid and cultural projects and ended high level diplomatic contacts.

The Eastern European group of nations reportedly will propose a new hard line against Cuba at the June meeting.

In 1996, Jose Maria Aznar, then the Spanish prime minister, induced the EU to adopt a doctrine called the “Common Position” modeled on the Helms-Burton law passed earlier that year in Washington. Like its U.S. counterpart, the law demands that Cuba change its policies or continue to face an economic blockade. Critics see the Common Position as epitomizing Europe’s subservience to Washington.

However, on April 4 in Havana, Spain’s foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos — a member of President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s social-democratic government that came to power in 2004 — and Cuba’s Felipe Perez Roque signed agreements that “together destroy Aznarism as the orientation for Spain’s Cuba policy,” according to Robert Sandels at Cuba-L Analysis.

The Helms-Burton Act is condemned by name. That the document did not mention the matter of dissidents implies Spanish tacit agreement with Cuba’s version of events in 2003. The ministers established a commission to discuss outstanding issues, including Cuba’s debt with Spain.

The agreement demonstrates mutual respect for principles of sovereignty and nonintervention. Importantly, the joint commission is allowed to discuss human rights, suggesting Spain’s agreement with the Cuban notion of human rights encompassing economic and social justice.

Spain may end up serving as a conduit for EU openings toward Cuba. As if on cue, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon asked Spain’s President Zapatero to “explain.”

Madrid’s El Pais newspaper reported Shannon’s disappointment that Moratinos met with no dissidents while in Cuba. He questioned “the purpose of the visit, what was achieved and what wasn’t achieved.”

Meanwhile Caleb McCarry found rough sledding in Ireland. At the University of Dublin, May 5, he had to escape through a back door, unable to make himself heard. The room where he was to have spoken resonated with protests. A banner told the story: “Caleb McCarry coordinates three key U.S. policies — the illegal blockade against Cuba, the secret terrorist war against Cuba, and global propaganda against Cuba.”

atwhit @megalink.net