Dutch Diplomat Bastiaan Engelhard Awarded for his Support for Freedom in Cuba

Bastiaan Engelhard (right) with the journalist Luz Escobar and the artist Julio Llopiz-Casal. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 March 2022 — Dutchman Bastiaan Engelhard has been awarded the Prize for Diplomacy Committed to Human Rights in Cuba, which is awarded every year by the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (Cadal).

The news was made public this Friday by the organization, which with this award aims to recognize the work of accredited diplomats on the island whose work has been characterized by their support for those who fight for democracy in Cuba and their defense of the human rights.

Engelhard, deputy chief of mission of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Havana, was widely chosen among the diplomats nominated by a group of activists called by Cadal to serve as the jury.

Independent artist Iris Ruiz, from the San Isidro Movement, noted that the Dutchman “provided support to independent activists and journalists even in the most complex scenarios,” including “house arrests,” circumstances “in which he was present.”

“He also mediated and echoed the demands for cultural rights and the free expression of artists and intellectuals before the Cuban Government, and showed his personal concern in each case of arbitrariness in relation to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the San Isidro Movement,” Ruiz detailed.

Dagoberto Valdés, from the Center for Coexistence Studies in Pinar del Río, stressed that Engelhard “accompanied and helped numerous activists” and that “he established direct and effective communication with independent journalists, opponents, and civil society groups.”

“His open, systematic and intelligent commitment to human rights activists, cultural actors and the pro-democracy community has made a difference in recent years,” declared Manuel Cuesta Morúa, spokesman for the Progressive Arch.

Reinaldo Escobar, editorial chief of 14ymedio, explained that the Dutch diplomat was chosen because in the midst of the persecution of civil society activists and independent journalists, “he made an appearance at their homes to support them and find out how to help.”

Similarly, Camila Acosta, a reporter for CubaNet, emphasized that Engelhard “was one of the diplomats in Cuba who was most supportive of independent activists and journalists” and said that “periodically he communicated with several of us, invited us to the residence or embassy to activities or closed meetings.”

The honoree, for his part, thanked the jury for the award. “Each one of them works hard for freedom in Cuba,” he said. “Not only for freedom of expression, of the press and artistic freedom, but also for having the freedom to create an initiative independent of the State, form a new foundation or be able to protest on public roads. To enter and leave their own country freely. These are not privileges, they are universal rights, embodied in laws and treaties, but unfortunately not respected.”

And, he denounced: “We still see with sadness how the arbitrary arrests continue, people leaving their homeland, the regulated [forbidden to travel], acquaintances imprisoned or under house arrest.”

Engelhard, who studied economics before being assigned to Cuba in 2017, worked at Dutch diplomatic missions in Mozambique, Brazil and Central America. In addition, he worked as a political adviser in the Delegation of the European Union in Guatemala.

This is the second diplomat from the Netherlands to receive this award, after Caecilia Wijgers, who received it in 2009-2010 together with a colleague from Sweden, Ingemar Cederberg, and another from Germany, Volker Pellet.

In its seven editions, between 2003 and 2021, 15 diplomats have been awarded for their work committed to human rights in Cuba, “one of them anonymously,” says the organization.

Cadal has also awarded Chilean writer Jorge Edwards, author of Persona non grata, for his pioneering work in supporting dissident intellectuals in the early years of the Cuban Revolution when he was Chile’s chargé d’affaires in Havana.


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