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Cuban dissident calls on EU not to forget human rights

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Cuban dissident calls on EU not to forget human rights

Guillermo Fariñas

[European Parliament]

While the EU wraps up a new framework for relations with Havana, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas warns that his country could descend into civil war if this deal is not made dependent on respecting human rights. EurActiv Spain reports.

“I feel like Cuba is going to end up mired in civil war, like Syria or Libya. All the political, economic and social conditions point towards that,” warned Guillermo “El Coco” Fariñas, interviewed at the European Parliament’s Brussels headquarters.

Fariñas speaks in a calm voice, wears a baggy suit and is plagued by blood circulation problems as a result of the last 54 days of fasting; he has protested in this way 25 times before. He is in Brussels to appear before the Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights today (12 October).

“We’re here in search of the MEPs’ shame, ethics and morals. They want the best for Cuba, but they give us the impression that they are being manipulated by the Cuban government, which is very adept at making out that changes have been made, when in fact nothing has been done,” said the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought winner.

The Cuban journalist has spent more than 11 years behind bars for his activism against the Castro revolution.

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“I think that if the two biggest democratic political blocs in the world, the EU and the US, don’t start making the Cuban government take steps towards democracy, there will be a chain of social explosions, because there will be so much accumulated hatred, and we’ll find ourselves in civil war. We need a negotiated solution,” he said.

The EU hopes to close a bilateral agreement with Cuba before the end of the year, defining a new stage of relations with the Latin American nation; the only country in the region with which the EU does not have such a deal.

The bloc and Havana started negotiating their first bilateral agreement back in April 2014, before being initialled at a ceremony in the Cuban capital on 11 March this year.

The aim of the deal is to supersede the EU’s Common Position, a set of guidelines that have been in force since 1996, put forward by the then conservative Spanish government, headed by José María Aznar.

Cuba’s authorities have always maintained that this policy has acted as an obstacle to full-blown relations between their country and the EU.

In September, the European Commission called on the member states to support a cooperation and political dialogue agreement with Havana. In parallel to the deal, both parties established a formal dialogue on human rights.

“There cannot be economic prosperity if there isn’t freedom and democracy,” insisted Fariñas. “We are in favour of an agreement and we are in favour of the EU’s involvement in Cuba.” But the journalist added that negotiating human rights with “bandits” is problematic.

In his view, the agreement should compile specific issues, like the release of political prisoners, the legalisation of other political parties and the creation of a democratic electoral law, among others.

“The EU and the US are competing to see who can get the most economic privileges out of Cuba,” he said, adding that he finds it “inappropriate” that the EU is not in consultation with the opposition in Cuba.

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Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, has started an official visit to Cuba where he hopes to promote economic and trade relations. EurActiv’s partner EFE reports.

“We are the democrats,” insisted the intellectual, who once went from 82 kilos to 48 kilos during a hunger strike when he was enduring a 12 month stint in prison.

His commitment to non-violence is clear, but he avoided launching a direct critique of opposition groups based in Miami, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, who have used violent means in the past in their attempts to unseat the Castro regime.

“We cannot speak about left-wing terrorism being good and right-wing terrorism being bad. We have to begin to forgive,” added the Cuban, who is the midst of a European tour that has already taken in Madrid and will take him to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and the universities of Valencia and Salamanca.

Fariñas accuses the Cuban revolutionaries of being the first to resort to violence against the population; his own father belonged to Castro’s 26 July Movement that overthrew then dictator Fulgence Batista.

“They set bombs in order to create chaos and make people stay at home. Fidel Castro ordered that,” he said.

He then spoke about Fidel’s brother Raúl, current president of the council of state, who has been capable of pardoning the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but “does not pardon his own compatriots”.