From somebody to nobody

Frank Calzon in the Herald:

From somebody to nobody

Granted, Miguel Angel Moratinos has been summarily relieved from his duties as Spain’s foreign minister. Tearful as he may be about losing his job in Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s Cabinet shuffle intended to spur economic recovery, Moratinos is a lucky man.

He’s still a member of parliament. He did not have to stand before colleagues reading a belittling confession accusing himself of ungratefulness, disloyalty, selfishness and ideological deviationism. He has a passport and can travel, may be invited to join a corporate board or teach at a prestigious university. His friends don’t have to deny they know him, and his name won’t be stricken from Spain’s history books.

The same can’t be said for former Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina of Cuba, or even for his successor Felipe Pérez-Roque. Both have vanished from public life and have become virtual nonpersons.

Moratinos spent a lot of effort — much of it in vain — in the last six years trying to burnish the Castro regime’s public image and to reassert Spain’s leadership within the European Union on Cuba policy. Until the collapse of European communism, Madrid’s views about Cuba were accepted with nary a dissent by European countries. That ended when Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians, et al joined the European Union and offered more credible insights on Cuba, based on their experience with communist rule. Even so, Moratinos argued for ending the European Union’s “Common Policy” in support of democratic political reform and respect for human rights in Cuba.

For Havana, last week was not very good. Not only was Moratinos fired on the eve of another European meeting to consider Cuba policy, but the European parliament also announced its award of the prestigious Sahkarov Prize to Guillermo Fariñas. A political prisoner in Cuba, Fariñas gained international attention with a 140-day hunger strike early this year, which led to some prisoner releases. Previous Sakharov Prize winners include South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fariñas is not the first Cuban dissident to be so honored. Oswaldo Payá, the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement leader who dared to present thousands of petitions asking for a plebiscite to Cuba’s parliament, received it in Strasbourg in 2002. The Ladies in White, a group of women — mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, of political prisoners who gather and peacefully march to Sunday mass — were awarded the prize in 2005. The Cuban government turned down their request to be permitted to travel abroad to receive the award.

Moratinos’ last favor to Fidel and Raúl Castro was to pretend that he had had something to do with the release of prisoners, whom according to statements from Madrid, were being “allowed” to travel to Spain. In reality, those released were exiled, together with their relatives, including young children whose passports are clearly stamped: “Return Prohibited.”

Ah, but imagine for a moment: What if Moratinos had been born in Pinar del Rio, served as Castro’s foreign minister and been dismissed like Robaina? Robaina, too, was the darling of the European left and a revolutionary. One day, Robertico was schmoozing with heads of state; the next day, he was nothing. Sent away to work on a farm in the provinces, a nonperson, his name never to be mentioned again in a Cuban newspaper, radio or TV program.

Robaina’s experience is not unique. Pérez-Roque, hand-picked by Fidel Castro to take over after Robaina, was similarly dismissed. Other Cubans, poets, writers, ministers and military officers have gone through the same Castro ritual, all hoping that, if they repented, their families could stay in the house the government gave them, their wives wouldn’t be fired from their jobs, their children wouldn’t be expelled from the university or, in the case of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, would not be taken before the execution wall. The promise to Ochoa was not kept.

Perhaps Moratinos would take notice: European democracies treat their foreign ministers — and citizens — with a lot more respect than Cuba.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba based in Arlington, Va.

1 thought on “From somebody to nobody”

  1. Moratinos, Zapatero, EVERYBODY always knew all of this. This has never been an ignorance problem, except maybe at the very beginning, decades ago. By now, anybody, particularly in a first world country, who claims not to know the score is either retarded or doesn’t want to know.

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