Five empty chairs: A reminder of the socialist Cuban dictatorship’s true nature

Anders L. Petersson and Erik Jennische in Euractiv:

Five empty chairs remind of Cuba’s regime true nature

On Saturday (1 February) at 6 pm Cuban time, five Cuban democracy activists were stopped at the airport in Havana as they were on their way to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament today.

They were banned from leaving the country by the Cuban authorities. This is just one of many examples of the continuous human rights violations in Cuba.

Fearful of any form of organised dissent, the intention of the Cuban government is clearly to eradicate any structured support for democratic change. In January, Prisoners Defenders reported at least 126 political prisoners, while Instituto Patmos has shown that at least 226 activists were banned from travelling abroad during 2019.

The five democracy activists who were banned from leaving the country were supposed to present their ideas on what the EU could do to promote respect for human rights and democratisation in the country.

Their proposals form part of a report Civil Rights Defenders presents today – a total 30 letters from Cuban democracy activists and organisations – necessary contributions to the EU’s policy development, as the Union’s policy towards Cuba clearly needs to change.

Instead, the seminar at the European Parliament will be held with Cuban activists based outside the country, and five empty chairs – a vivid reminder of the current strategy’s shortcomings.

Shortly after the EU and Cuba signed its Agreement in 2016, the EU described the country as “a one-party democracy, in which elections take place at the municipal, provincial and national level”.

Weeks after the Agreement was provisionally applied, the Cuban ‘election process’ began at the municipal level. Among the tens of thousands of candidates running for assemblies across the country, not one represented the opposition.

When ‘elections’ to the provincial and national assemblies were held a couple of months later, only one candidate appeared on the ballot for each position.

Finally, as the new National Assembly met in April 2018, the official newspaper Granma reported that “Miguel Díaz-Canel received 99.83% of the votes cast” and became the new president of Cuba, replacing Raul Castro.

Although the EU and Cuba in their Agreement recall “their commitment to the recognised principles of democracy”, the EU remained silent on the sham elections and the transfer of power that followed. Apparently, it was all acceptable under the new Agreement.

Continue reading HERE.