EU kowtows to US on Cuba


The following EU press statement was issued on 5 June 2003:


“Following the recent deplorable actions of the Cuban authorities aiming not only at violating fundamental freedoms in Cuba, but also at depriving civilians of the ultimate human right, that of life, the EU regrets that the Cuban authorities broke the de-facto moratorium on the death penalty and wishes to inform the international community that on 5 June it addressed the following demarche to the Cuban authorities:


‘The EU, deeply concerned about the continuing flagrant violation of human rights and of fundamental freedoms of members of the Cuban opposition and of independent journalists, being deprived of their freedom for having expressed freely their opinion, calls once again the Cuban authorities to release immediately all political prisoners.


‘While expecting a favourable response from the Cuban authorities, the EU, mindful of increasing reports about poor detention conditions of prisoners with serious health problems, appeals to the Cuban authorities that, in the meantime, the prisoners do not suffer unduly and are not exposed to inhumane treatment.’


“Furthermore and vis-à-vis the current situation in Cuba, the EU has unanimously decided to:

-          limit the bilateral high-level governmental visits

-          reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events

-          invite Cuban dissidents at national days celebrations

-          proceed to the re-evaluation of the EU common position.”


The issuing of this “demarche” was the latest in a series of protests to Cuba by the EU sparked by the execution in March of three men, who hijacked a ship off Cuba to take it to Florida.  The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a spirited statement in response on 11 June, which suggested that the real reason for it was a desire on the part of the EU to make up with the US, after recent disagreements over Iraq:


“They are very conscious in Europe that their decision to join in the U.S. government’s attacks against Cuba will be seen as more proof of their contrition and repentance over the differences that arose over the war in Iraq between “Old Europe” – as Mr Rumsfeld called it – and the imperial Nazi-fascist government which is trying to impose a dictatorship on the rest of the world.”


The Cuban Government is probably right.  Recently, the EU has also joined with the US in threatening Iran for daring to consider developing nuclear weapons, that is, weapons of self-defence, to prevent the Anglo-Saxon wolves falling upon it, like they did upon its neighbour.


US executions

One wonders how many “demarches” the EU has issued to the US authorities about the infringements of the right to life itself, which occur on a regular basis in the US. As the Cuban Foreign Office said:


“Cuba will not go into great detail about the extraordinary reasons, explained more than once, that forced it to take energetic measures against three armed hijackers who had criminal records, who threatened to kill dozens of hostages, including several European tourists.


“Cuba has never heard a word from the European Union condemning the death penalty in the United States. It has never seen the European Union spearhead a motion in the Commission on Human Rights condemning the United States for inflicting the death penalty on minors, the mentally ill and foreigners who were denied their right to meet with their consuls. Cuba has never heard the European Union criticize the 71 executions that took place in the United States last year, including the executions of two women. Why does the European Union condemn the death penalty in Cuba and not in the United States?”


And, they might have added, why does the EU not protest at the thousands of entirely innocent Iraqis that have been killed by US military action in recent months?


US prisoners without trial

The US gained control of Cuba after the Spanish-American war of 1898, and maintained control until the revolution.  During its period of control, the US established a military base at Guantanamo, which it still holds on to today, despite the revolution.  The base is under US control, but it is not part of the US and therefore not governed according the constitution and laws of the US.  It has therefore been an ideal location for holding prisoners without trial.


It is a bit rich therefore that the EU should protest against the violation of “fundamental freedoms” practised by the Cuban Government while remaining absolutely silent about the violation of these freedoms being practised by the US in a piece of Cuba, which it holds on to by imperial fiat.  The Cuban Foreign Office did not fail to point this out:


“Cuba will not repeat the arguments it has used over and over again. It will only point out that it has never heard the European Union say one word of censure about the hundreds of prisoners – some of whom are Europeans – who the United States is holding, in violation of the most basic norms about human rights, in the naval base in Guantanamo, which they force on us against our will.


“The European Union has never said a word about the thousands of prisoners that the United States has kept locked up since September 11, often simply because of the way they looked or because they are Muslims. These people do not enjoy even the most basic legal safeguards, nor have they been tried and their names have not even been published.”


The statement blames Prime Minister Aznar of Spain for this increase in antagonism towards Cuba from the EU, saying:


“Mr Aznar, obsessed with punishing Cuba and now a minor ally of the Yankee imperial government, has been the person mainly responsible for the fact that the European Union has not developed an independent and objective approach to Cuba and today is the man mainly responsible for its traitorous escalation in aggression, just when our little island has become the peoples’ symbol of resistance to the threat that the United States may impose a Nazi-fascist tyranny on the rest of the world, including European peoples – who were recently unrecognised and humiliated when their stalwart opposition to the war in Iraq was ignored – and even on the American people themselves. …


“How can we explain Mr Aznar’s interest in ‘promoting democracy in Cuba’ if he was the first and only European head of government to support the fascist coup in Venezuela and offer his ‘support and availability’ to the ephemeral ‘president’ of the Venezuelan coup?”


The latter is a reference to the military coup against Hugo Chavez on 11 April 2002, which was reversed after two days.  Aznar was in good company: the coup was also approved of in Washington.


Helms-Burton Act

Aznar is also blamed for the EU caving in to the US in 1997 over the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (1996), better known as the Helms-Burton Act. Earlier, in 1992, after the Soviet bloc broke up and Cuba became economically vulnerable as a result, the US tightened its embargo on Cuba by passing the Cuban Democracy Act.  It was hoped that, without Soviet help, the embargo would bring down the Castro government and the United States would be able to re-establish its profitable ventures in Cuba after a lapse of over 40 years.


But this Act, which forbade companies owned or operated by US nationals to trade with Cuba, merely disadvantaged the US, since foreign companies were able to do business there.  An international embargo was needed, and that is why the Helms-Burton was passed in 1996.   It attempted to force foreign companies not to have economic dealings with Cuba, by allowing them to be sued in the US if they did.


The Helms-Burton Act is contrary to the rules of the WTO (and NAFTA).  Initially, the EU took a case to the WTO about it.  However, the case was withdrawn in 1997 after US promised that EU nationals would not be proceeded against.  So, the EU went along with the US attempt to throttle Cuba economically, contrary to international trade rules, as long as their nationals are OK.


Now the EU is lining up with the US against Cuba again.



Labour & Trade Union Review

July 2003