Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A view from Europe

In this article published by the Brookings Institution, Paul Hare, the UK’s former ambassador to Cuba, reviews the European Union’s policy toward Cuba between 1996 and 2008, including an interesting account of the EU sanctions imposed after the 2003 jailing of 75 human rights activists and independent journalists.

Americans may not like the description of the United States and the OAS as “fringe players,” but it’s good to read a perspective on Cuba where we’re not at the center, and where a group of countries that shares our values grapples with the issues of engagement and leverage.

Ambassador Hare writes in detail about the period before the 2003 crackdown, and surmises that Fidel Castro had reached three strategic decisions before March 2003. First, “no more liberalization of the economy” as Venezuela’s economic support came into play; second, to “decimate the Varela petition activists,” who accounted for more than half of the 75 arrested; and third, to “forestall U.S. Congressional moves to lift the embargo.” He continues:

“[Fidel Castro] has always seen hostility of the U.S. as fundamental to his foreign policy. With a more assertive internal opposition the last thing he wanted was the dropping of the U.S. measures which remained his main justification for the economic and political sacrifices of the Cuban people.”

And the article includes a fact I had not heard before – during the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, during the hours when it seemed that President Hugo Chavez was in danger, Havana “asked the EU to charter a plane to carry him to safety to Cuba.”

While we’re on the subject of Europe, Spain’s foreign minister says that an EU-Cuba political dialogue is about to start.


Anonymous said...

(yawn)...recycles the old canard that the regime wants the embargo to remain in place....

Thank you for your opinion Old Europe, aka experts in appeasement.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is true. Castro's propaganda machine is always demanding the end of the embargo, but Castro will do anything to keep it in place. Without the appearance of confrontation with the US. he is nothing.

Anonymous said...

I guess he told you that, right?

Anonymous said...

the bottom line is Castro doesn't care one way or the other whether the embargo exists or not. He is going to act the same way -- brutal -- and make the same decisions -- controlling -- regardless of the US does or doesn't do.