EU steps up hostility to Cuba

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

On 5 June, the European Union published a communiqué outlining a series of punitive measures against Cuba. This followed months of escalating hostility, initiated in April by Spain’s request for the EU to postpone indefinitely any consideration of Cuba’s application to join the Cotonou Convention, a trade agreement between the EU on the one hand and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries on the other. Cuba’s application had been made with the unanimous backing of the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.

The EU did not even bother to directly inform Cuba of its most recent measures – the Cubans were left to learn of them via the foreign press. In its declaration, ‘the EU laments that the Cuban authorities have ended their de facto moratorium on the death penalty’. In other words, the EU condemns Cuba’s act of self-defence against US-backed terrorist attacks while keeping silent, for example, about the 71 executions that took place in the United States last year or the hundreds of prisoners, including Europeans, the US is holding, in violation of human rights, in the illegally occupied Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Four measures have been announced so far:

To limit bilateral high-level government visits: However, in the last five years not one EU head of state has visited Cuba and only two of its 15 foreign ministers have done so. Other visits were cancelled to avoid upsetting Washington, such as the planned trip of Britain’s then Minister of Energy, Brian Wilson, in May. Meanwhile, in 2002 alone, 663 high-level delegations from the rest of the world visited Cuba.
To reduce the participation of member states in cultural events: This shameful policy victimises artists, intellectuals and ordinary people, both European and Cuban, by depriving them of positive cultural exchanges. Once more Spain led by example, cancelling its delegation’s participation in Cuba’s ‘Traces of Spain’ festival.
To invite Cuban dissidents to national holiday celebrations: This is a first step towards turning European embassies in Cuba into allies of the US Interests Section’s subversive work. The Spanish embassy has openly done so, failing to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Meanwhile, the UK ambassador in Havana invited well-paid opposition figures to the Queen’s birthday party in London in April.
Re-examine the EU Common Position on Cuba: This will further intensify anti-Cuban policies introduced in 1996 to limit credit and finance to Cuba during the Special Period. That initiative, forced through by Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, resulted in the EU joining the US over the Helms-Burton Act, which tightened the US blockade.

The Italian government has already suspended development aid of almost 40 million euros. The French and German governments have also announced a review of economic cooperation.
It’s not surprising that Spain, despite major investment in Cuban joint ventures, is leading EU hostilities against the Cuban Revolution. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is a right-wing, passionately anti-communist ideologue who since November 1995 has maintained excellent political and personal relations with the Cuban American National Foundation, is aware of its plans of sabotage, gives it financial support and through the Spanish media promotes propaganda against Cuba.

Aznar represents a section of the Spanish ruling class which sees its economic interest as lying in alliance with the USA. After the disputes over the war on Iraq between the main imperialist powers, the US and Europe, led by Germany and France – ‘Old Europe’, as Donald Rumsfeld called them – the Cuban issue is seen as a convenient way to cool down the increasing rivalry. Spain and Italy play an important role in encouraging the EU to join in the US government’s attacks against Cuba, as proof, in the words of Cuba’s foreign ministry, ‘of their contrition and repentance over the differences that arose over the war in Iraq.’

The British ruling class is divided on the issue. On the one hand, those sections represented by Blair and the Labour Party are keen to use the issue to display their fervent loyalty to US foreign policy. In a debate in the House of Lords on 26 June, Baroness Crawley, speaking for the government, firmly refused to comment on the subversive activities of the US Special Interests Section in Havana and dismissed evidence of the so-called dissidents’ actions as ‘conspiracy theories’. Cuba’s potential would remain ‘unfulfilled’ until ‘its political and economic systems are reformed’. She later added: ‘The EU calls for freedom of assembly and expression, free media and economy and freedom for all political parties.’ On the other hand, Britain has been looking to increase its influence within Cuba through development aid and joint ventures. At a time when its neighbours are so clearly allying themselves to US policy, British capitalism is seeking to carve out an important role for itself in pressurising Cuba to adopt capitalist reforms. In the debate, British Lord Moynihan called for ‘increased co-operation through business activity’ because ‘expanded trade leads to economic openness and market-based reforms which are the best way to achieve our objective of easing the process of peaceful political change in Cuba’.

For many years, Britain has seen such practice as the way to defeat the Cuban struggle for socialism. Some try to strangle its economy, others threaten direct invasion or sponsor terrorism; at present Britain keeps ‘the hope that free enterprise in business could have an effect in the long run’ to force Cuba to open its markets and resources to international plunder.

Juanjo Rivas

 

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