The EU must not betray the people of Cuba and their right to choose their government

Rosa Maria Paya in Politico:

The EU must not betray Cuba

Brussels needs to insist on the Cuban people’s right to choose their political system.

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After more than a year of negotiations with the Cuban government, the European Union has shown no significant progress beyond statements on commercial issues and the establishment of the basic framework for an agreement.

The Cuban government has played its cards well. It made public part of its talks with the U.S. government, and the already frenetic race to secure “positions” in Cuba went out of control. In the naïve belief, among others, that the biological end of the brothers-in-chief will bring about democracy spontaneously, European and other business people are trying to assure themselves a place on the island “before the Americans get there” — no matter how much money they lose in the process.

I will not dwell on the obvious lack of a market in Cuba, where the people have no purchasing power or democratic resources required to deal with foreign investors because the only legal business partner is the Cuban government. Clearly, foreign investors handpicked as minority partners by a government that controls everything on the island are guaranteed that they will have no competition. But that comes at the risk of losing it all the minute they start to become “inconvenient,” either because they demand to be paid what they’re owed or because the government has found a more interesting — and submissive — partner. Some European investors have even wound up in Cuban prisons, such as Stephen Purvis from Britain.

The truth is that deals with mafias are never win-win. Paradoxically, despite the country’s clearly precarious economic situation, the Cuban government has succeeded in portraying itself as having nothing to lose in its negotiations with the EU. Yet European diplomats would be seen as having failed if they are forced to call off the negotiations and admit that the Cuban government is not ready to give in on anything and therefore does not meet the basic human rights conditions the EU requires of its partners. The pressures on this issue run counter to logic, and so the EU negotiators in the end are more likely to sign any agreement to show results and satisfy economic interests.

The EU requires a human rights clause in the final agreement, which the Cuban government will try to define as if it is meeting the conditions. But if Europe comes to the coherent conclusion that it is Cuba that needs Europe, and not the other way around, it will have the leverage to support democracy and, through that, true peace, progress and stability in Cuba and the region. That is required for a real framework of guarantees for European economic interests.

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