14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 10 March 2020 – Three years have passed since December 2016, when Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla shook hands exultantly with a smiling Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The head of Castro’s diplomacy had every reason to celebrate. After more than two decades of disagreements and the existence of a Common Position since 1996 that conditioned cooperation with Cuba on a democratic transition, the establishment of a rule of law and positive developments in the field of human rights, the signing of an Agreement of a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Cuba had finally been reached, aimed at “achieving a constructive and mutually beneficial approach between the parties.”
The signing of the new agreement was proclaimed by the Island’s official press as “another Cuban triumph against the unilateral and interventionist policies” of the Common Position.
In fact, the signing of the new agreement was proclaimed by the Island’s official press as “another Cuban triumph against the unilateral and interventionist policies” of the Common Position, which was thus automatically repealed.
However, an analysis of the articles that underlie both EU policies towards Cuba is enough to find that in reality, though there are certain different nuances in their formulations, they are not so different in their content.
It is obvious that much of the content of the Common Position served as the basis when drafting the provisions of the Dialogue Agreement, although there are two relevant differentiating elements aimed at satisfying the demands of the Cuban side: the 2016 agreement does not include the first section where the objective of the EU in its relations with Cuba was specified “to favor a process of transition towards pluralistic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement of the standard of living of the Cuban people”; and as a second and major difference, the new agreement exceeds the unilateral character of the previous one.
Another similarity that the two agreements share is the complexity of the Cuban situation at the time they were implemented, both in the interior of the Island –with an economy mired in an insurmountable crisis, a growing social unrest and worsening repression – as well as in its difficult relationship with most countries in the region, currently in the midst of a new political map that is adverse to the Castro cupola, especially with the United States.
Now, among the reasons mentioned by the European side to withdraw the Common Position and replace it with another agreement is the ineffectiveness of the Common Position itself, since far from promoting changes towards democracy and in favor of human rights within Cuba, it produced a distancing that prevented the EU from favorably “influencing” Cuba in this regard.
Another stated reason was that despite the policy freeze, throughout the time the Common Position was maintained, there were economic and commercial ties on the part of European businessmen.
Another of the stated reasons was that, despite the policy freeze, throughout the time the Common Position was maintained, there were economic and commercial ties on the part of European businessmen, mainly Spanish, with the Havana regime.
Last but not least, the EU wanted to “distance itself” from the economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation policies applied by Washington against the Island. With this, an external element was introduced in the rugged drift of the EU’s relations with the longest-running dictatorship in this Hemisphere: lo and behold, the powerful northern neighbor emerged as an opportune wild card from someone else’s trick.
Seen this way, it is not very clear if what the Dialogue Agreement is about is to approach Cuba “and its people” or to confront US foreign policy towards the Castro regime, and in the process, to secure the economic and commercial interests of its reckless entrepreneurs on the Island, and to try to save, to some extent, payment of Havana’s huge debt to its European creditors.
Because if it were really good-natured, it is not explained that in three years of the new romance between Europe and Cuba – where apparently there have been some disagreements, but reconciliations and inexplicable tolerance have prevailed – the EU continues to assume such a lukewarm position before the flagrant violations of human rights in the Island in the midst of a repressive wave that already reaches the entire society, including independent artists and journalists, opponents, self-employed workers, LGTBI activists, animal rights defenders, Cubans residing abroad and any citizen who has the courage to question even the slightest disposition of the totalitarian power that chokes us.
In contrast to the Cuban reality, the entire content of the section which, under the heading of democracy and human rights ennobles the letter of the agreement, is in fact a macabre joke.
Because in these three years of buttering people up and smiles between Castroism and the EU – not “between the EU and Cuba” – we have seen the unleashing of a repressive escalation spread throughout the entire society
Because in these three years of buttering people up and smiles between Castroism and the EU – not “between the EU and Cuba” – we have seen the unleashing of a repressive escalation spread throughout the entire society amid an incessant tide of arrests, police citations, the so-called regulations that already prevent over 200 Cubans from leaving the country freely, judicial farces that have unjustly jailed independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones, the opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer and more recently the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, among many other abuses, and where the lack of political will of the Palace of the Revolution has been clearly defined to comply even with the minimum agreements signed in Brussels on December 2016 and which, according to the EU, constitute essential conditions of the same.
During all this time, starting with the preamble, the Cuban side has circumvented the agreement, which establishes verbatim both parties’ commitment to “their respect for universal human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international instruments on the subject; their commitment to the recognized principles of democracy, good governance and the rule of law; the need for greater cooperation in the field of promoting justice, citizen security and migration…”, among other basic principles by which every civilized or moderately democratic society must be governed and that, apparently, we Cubans have not deserved in the last 61 years.
If the EU really means for the commitment in the field of human rights not to become a dead letter, how and when will it declare itself in relation to the current wave of repression that is gripping Cuban independent civil society?
If the EU really means for the commitment in the field of human rights not to become a dead letter, how and when will it declare itself in relation to the current wave of repression that is gripping Cuban independent civil society? And up to what point is it ready to ignore its ally’s rampant impunity?
In its three years of validity, the Dialogue Agreement has not shown any advantage over the previous EU policy, at least not for ordinary Cubans, and even less so for the internal dissidence, that part of the civil society now conveniently ignored.
Another result of the agreement is that it has benefitted the dictatorship, which continues to gain time and increasingly clings to power, ensuring its continuity while crushing with an iron fist all independent thought spaces that open on the Island and once again postponing Cubans’ dreams of prosperity and democratic aspirations.
And some benefit will most likely be obtained by the EU, even if it is only the sad consolation of one day collecting the debt payments which, thanks to the generosity of their banks and their businessmen, keep them tied to the Island’s chiefdom clique, which in turn is unduly engaged in not arousing their suspicions. I am afraid that on this point too, as with regard to its brand-new Dialogue Agreement, the EU will end up with yet another failure.
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