Friday, February 03, 2006

MEPs call for tougher line on Cuba

03.02.2006 - 10:18 CET | By Teresa Küchler
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Parliament believes that the EU-Cuba diplomacy project has failed, and urges for a tougher Brussels stance on the commmunist regime in Havana.

MEPs on Thursday (2 February) adopted a resolution denouncing the lack of respect for human rights on Cuba.

The resolution, adopted with 560 votes in favour and 30 against, states that so far the political dialogue with Cuba has not led to greater freedom on the island or improved bilateral relations, and says EU member states should "act accordingly".

MEPs condemn the increase in the number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and the ban on the "Women in White"- mothers, wives and sisters to imprisoned - from travelling to the European Parliament to receive the human rights Sakharov prize in December.

"Scores of independent journalists, peaceful dissidents and upholders of human rights are still being held in jail in subhuman conditions," the parliament resolution says.

MEPs during the debate ahead of the vote stated that it was particularly unacceptable and shocking that some of the political prisoners are not receiving the help they need and are in very poor medical condition.

"These facts deceive the aspirations to improve relations between Cuba and the EU," MEPs stated, adding that repression in Cuba is worsening, despite a recent attempt by the EU to boost diplomatic ties with Cuban president Fidel Castro.

In January 2005, the EU tried to normalize relations with Havana, without abandoning the objectives previously set in the so-called Common Position on Cuba: peaceful democratisation, promotion of basic rights and freedoms and improvement in living conditions of all Cubans.

But the hope of a more open attitude from the Castro regime side has apparently not been fulfilled, MEPs argued, saying that on the contrary, the human rights situation has deteriorated.

During 2005, Cuba did not release a single political prisoner and the number of prisoners grew, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a dissident group.

German communist MEP Willy Meyer, one of the minority voices that spoke against the condemnatory resolution on Thursday, defended Cuba on grounds of the regime’s solidarity with poor countries and its social achievements, arguing that the EU should not run errands for the US.

Also the Spanish socialist MEP Miguel Angel Martinez, member of the group Friends of Cuba, defended Cuba.

Mr Martinez said the resolution was flawed and lacking in reference to Guantanamo (US prison camp in a US military base on Cuba), "the worst violation of human rights on the island," he said.

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