A Royal Visit: Cuba, Spain, and the Political Blockade

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, during a floral tribute in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elena Larrinaga de Luis, Madrid, August 31, 2019 — Havana was founded in 1515 by Diego Velázquez under the name of San Cristóbal de La Habana. Years later, in 1519, the city became the colonial capital in 1589, found a definitive seat in the north of the western region of the Island, beside a beautiful bay, well sheltered and convenient for a port and human settlement.

In 1634 it was declared “Key to the New World and Safeguard of the East Indies” by royal decree, and in 1665, it was conceded the right to have its own coat of arms, in which were represented, with three towers, the fortresses (La Real Fuerza, El Morro, and La Punta) that defended the city. In 1982, Old Havana was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The city’s importance is unquestionable and its belated disengagement from the Kingdom of Spain in 1898, whose grave effects in some way remain currently in effect. It is thus commendable and desirable to recover a close and brotherly relationship with the old colony, necessary and productive for both parties.

“Spain’s political blockade threatens a visit by the king and queen to Cuba for Havana’s 500 years,” was El País’s headline on August 25. Not even a mention of what it means for the Spanish Crown, architect of the democratic system and of the 1978 transition, to back with its presence a dictatorial regime whose last constitutional reform has as its essence the subordination to “all” the dictates of the Cuban Communist Party.

That is to say that the courts of justice and their organs are controlled by this single party and that that same State that says that rights can be claimed judicially, suffocates through repression and exclusion their exercise and claim.

The news makes clear that what is not desirable is an uncomfortable photograph with the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega, close allies of the Cuban regime, invited to the commemoration, but that the visit could indeed be made, in the preceding days.

Avoiding the photo with these leaders and taking them with representatives of the Cuban regime implies an immense slight against the Cuban people. Their responsibility is known to everything, once it takes place in these countries under the supervision of the hierarchs of Havana. Governments pass but people don’t, and as has been demonstrated throughout history, they have a memory.

According to international law, breaches of commitments by States before the United Nations and the ILO are violations of human rights. Cuba is a signatory of the Agreements of the United Nations and has ratified the agreements of the International Labour Organization.

The last report of the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights confirms that the Cuban government violates 20 conventions of the ILO (protection and confiscation of salary, forced labor, freedom to work, right to unionization and collective bargaining, among others). The export of medical services is a clear example, baptized by the volunteer workers themselves as a “slavery of white coats.”

The Cuban Government has announced structural reforms in the economy that it has not carried out and has paralyzed the growth of private work and toughened state control. Decree 349 which regulates cultural production has produced a wave of arbitrary arrests.

Not a single mention of what should be referred to by a newspaper, the “fixer” of the Spanish transition and aware of the importance of support and international solidarity in these cases. It vividly demonstrates its concern over the sanctions of President Trump and over the effect they could have on Spanish businesses: understandable but insufficient.

The Spanish Crown has had many opportunities to visit Cuba in these 500 years. We know that the throne of the King of Spain is waiting, but the ideal thing would be that the Spanish monarch not be committed in this visit, which will be without a doubt manipulated by the country’s government.

The message that the Cuban people will receive will be that the Spanish Monarchy approves and supports absolutist regimes and it will be in detriment to its image. Let us hope that the “blindness” of certain politicians does not cast a shadow over the image of the magnificent statesman that is the current king Felipe VI, whose defense of democracy has been clear.

El País’s headline should have said “The political blockade of the Cuban government threatens the visit of the King and Queen to Cuba for its 500 year anniversary.”

The visit of the current Spanish monarch should be made when Cuba takes the path the Spanish took in ’78. It would then be very important that King Felipe, with his presence, support that process.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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