The last few weeks have been interesting for those of us watching the European Union’s posture regarding Cuba. First we had the Spanish foreign minister visit Cuba, snubbing dissidents, and making deals with castro, inc. The Czech Republic on the other hand was trying to move the EU back to a more hard-line stance regarding Cuba. What has resulted is a confusing mess that has ended with everyone trying to claim victory in the media.
But let’s look at the big picture and see if we can determine what’s really going on.
In 1996 the EU adopted what is known as the “Common Position on Cuba”. In short the common position is to “to encourage a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people.” The EU set out to encourage a change from within Cuba via diplomatic and economic contacts. This common position on Cuba is essentially the standing policy of Europe toward Cuba and is reviewed on regular basis.
In 2003 the EU put some tepid sanctions on Cuba in response to the arrests of 75 dissidents, opposition members and independent journalists. Also triggering those sanctions was the lightning fast trial and execution of three afro-Cuban men who stole a launch in a doomed attempt to escape the worker’s paradise. Although the sanctions were relatively weak (limiting diplomatic contacts, inviting of dissidents to official embassy celebrations, etc.), they were a statement nonetheless that Cuba’s actions were unacceptable.
When the Socialist, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, was elected in Spain, that country began an effort to have the sanctions removed. In January of 2005 it succeeded in having them suspended. Since then we have had following situation. The “Common Position” continues to be the de facto policy of Europe toward Cuba and there are some sanctions on Cuba that are indefinitely suspended (the continuation of the suspension of sanctions comes up for review periodically just like the common position). Only the Europeans could come up with such confusing set of policies.
The problem for castro, inc. is that is desires normal relations with the EU so that it can benefit from a “EU economic cooperation agreement” that every other country in Latin America has. The rub is that Cuba wants the carrot but is unwilling to negotiate away its “right” to abuse human rights, supress political opposition, outlaw private property, etc. It wants something for nothing and hides behind the argument that its sovereignty is under assault. Yet, under the status quo, Cuba can’t get its agreement.
Which brings us to the recent flurry of news stories from such sources as the EU observer. Spain was lobbying to permanently remove the suspended sanctions on Cuba and normalize relations with castro inc to pave the way for a EU economic cooperation agreement with Cuba. The Czechs on the other hand, not impressed with the lack of progress toward democracy and pluralism that the common position endorses, wants to reactivate the sanctions. Neither side got its way.
What did happen is that the EU invited Cuba to the negotiating table in a game of “Deal or no Deal”
“The EU would be ready to resume a comprehensive and open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities…For sounding out this, a Cuban delegation will be invited to Brussels,” the ministers said in a statement on Monday (18 June), with no details of who is to come from Havana or when the trip might take place.
The invitation was laced with strong language condemning Cuba:
The declaration saw a reminder the EU “deplores” Cuban human rights abuses and “urges” Havana to free political prisoners. “The EU will continue to pursue its dialogue with Cuba’s civil society and to offer all sectors of society practical support toward peaceful change,” the EU ministers said.
In other words what’s going on here is the Euros are trying to do what all the people on the American left say we should do. Try to sit at the negotiating table with the castro brothers and see if we can achieve the goal (the supposedly all want) of transitioning Cuba from an outlaw totalitarian regime to a pluralistic democracy where respect for human rights is present.
Well the offer was put on the table and the Cuban answer is…
Not no, but HELL NO.
The Foreign Ministry did not mention human rights specifically, but said the EU’s invitation for dialogue “meddles, in a slanderous way, in strictly internal Cuban affairs, making judgments and announcing unjust and hypocritical acts that Cuba considers offensive and unacceptable and rejects completely.”
“We do not recognize the moral authority of the European Union to judge or advise Cuba,” it said, adding that the island is “an independent and sovereign country” that deserves treatment as an equal.
So what we have is more of the same. Europe is pleading with the castros to act reasonably. It’s offering the carrot and Cuba is thumbing its nose at the gesture. This is what happens when you try to reason with murdering psychopaths.
So regardless of what the Czechs and the Spaniards say, we can expect no significant change inside Cuba until the deck of cards that is the leadership in that country gets re-shuffled. Trying to play nice and reason with unreasonable people isn’t going to lead to anything but a dead end.