When Spanish Socialist and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell visited communist Cuba last month, human rights and the brutal oppression of the Cuban people was the last thing on his mind.
In Cuba, E.U. official prioritized economic engagement over human rights. Shameful
Even before Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, arrived in Havana it was clear that addressing the plight of more than 1,000 political prisoners in Cuba was not a top concern.
Before his official visit to Cuba, from May 25-27, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders and five other human-rights organizations sent Borrell a letter, made public on May 22, urging him, together with E.U. member states to respond to the country’s human-rights crisis during the third EU-Cuba Joint Council in Havana.
They asked him “to lead the E.U. and its member states in robustly engaging the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for exercising their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” They asked, specifically, that they “raise the cases of José Daniel Ferrer García, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel ‘Osorbo’ Castillo Pérez, Aymara Nieto, Sissi Abascal Zamora, Donaida Pérez Paseiro and dissident artists Richard Zamora Brito “El Radikal”, Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez and Randy Arteaga-Rivera.”
On May 23, the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights held a hearing on Cuba, where some members raised concerns, including the chair, who asked Jonathan Hatwell, head of the EEAS Division for Latin America and the Caribbean, if his boss, Borrell would be taking a list of political prisoners to hand over to the Cuban government and press for their release.
Hatwell’s meandering response, in which he said he didn’t know, spoke volumes.
On May 25, the European External Action Service tweeted: “Did you know that the European Union and its member states are Cuba’s first investor and first trading partner?” That same day, Borrell did not address Cuba’s political prisoners or mention the Cuban regime approving on the first day of his visit the “Social Communication Law,” which further criminalizes and seeks to muzzle independent journalism and penalizes user interaction on the internet to silence Cubans.
Instead, Borrell highlighted the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) on Twitter. His first public event in Cuba was not a meeting with activists or the relatives of political prisoners, but a meeting with so-called “entrepreneurs” in a location owned by the son of a high-ranking military official.
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