Graphic photos of the president of Portugal effusively welcoming Cuba’s designated dictator and wife were recently posted here, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. The three-day state visit, made at Portuguese invitation and previously postponed due to the pandemic, came right after the European Parliament’s condemnation of human rights abuses in Cuba and its call for sanctions against those responsible, starting with Díaz-Canel. The visit immediately preceded his trip to the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels.
It turns out that Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited Cuba in October of 2016, the same year he became president, just in time to meet Fidel Castro before he died and score the associated photo-op. While there, he condemned the US “blockade,” a position he reiterated during this visit by Díaz-Canel. Naturally, he did not invite the latter to treat him as persona non grata, which he definitely did not.
In addition to getting rather physical, he awarded Cuba’s nominal and essentially unelected president with the Order of the Infante Don Enrique in the degree of Grand Collar, one of Portugal’s highest decorations. Díaz-Canel was also given the key to the city of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, by its mayor Carlos Moedas. Mind you, neither Rebelo de Sousa nor Moedas are even Socialists; they are both Social Democrats.
Díaz-Canel’s agenda included wooing Portuguese businesses, but it also included renting 300 Cuban doctors to Portugal’s National Health Service for 3 years (something Portugal has done before under different governments). The deal is backed by Rebelo de Sousa despite opposition from some quarters, but one expects it will be approved.
Presumably, this state visit was already set up before Cuba’s condemnation by the European Parliament, but that apparently had no effect on the reception given to its official head, Díaz-Canel. Thus, Portugal chose to both “validate” and legitimize totalitarian tyranny, including over a thousand political prisoners. Perhaps Lula of Brazil, Portugal’s former colony, had some hand in the matter, but that does not alter the situation.
Portugal is a minor player of little geopolitical relevance, and Cuba gets much more out of our Cain-like “Latin brothers,” for instance, but still, why would a democratic country soil itself this way? The optics are terrible, and Portugal could have rented those doctors without bending over backwards to honor the illegitimate head of an illegitimate dictatorship (and Portugal has experienced its own dictatorship). Alas, it’s a sadly familiar movie.
Again, the world, even the “good” free world, is not going to free Cuba. While it may be indifferent, all too often it opts to become actively part of the problem. That would appear to be irrational, since Cuba is a parasite that takes but does not give (except to those who want their own version of Cuba, like Venezuela, or want a tool against the US, like Russia or China). However, miseria humana is not about reason; it’s about perversity.