As reported on this blog this February, the EU members had agreed among themselves not to invite opponents of the Castro regime to diplomatic receptions at their embassies. The aim was to ‘normalize’ relations with Cuba after the arrest of 75 dissidents had led to vehement disagreement between Cuba and the European Union. Back then the EU was sharply criticized for this pretty lame behavior.
I read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, unfortunately only available online to subscribers, which I’m not, that the German embassy tried a rather half-hearted approach to show some spine after all: On occasion of the 15th anniversary of German reunification on October 3rd, they had organized two receptions, an official one for Cuban officials up to Fidel Castro himself, and also the international diplomatic corps, and an unofficial one for private citizens, including several opponents of the regime. Quite predictably, not a single local bigwig showed up for the official reception.
According to the article, Castro has by now altogether lost interest in having good relations with the European Union anyway. His close relationship with Hugo Chavez has rescued the country from the increasing isolation it suffered after the demise of the Soviet Union. Considering the high price of oil, Chavez can well afford to be generous with Castro, while gaining some additional credibility with the international left by having him as a kind of political and ‘spiritual’ mentor. This unholy duo also is up to no good, and is trying to export communism to the rest of Latin America, as if were the 1960s all over again. More about that in some other posts.
While European embassies in Havana try to keep relations to the Cuban government as normal as possible, European government have shown their displeasure with increasing repression in Cuba in various ways. Since Venezuela is propping the country up, and thereby diminishes the European leverage towards Cuba, these reactions are mostly on the symbolic level, though. For example, the German Foreign Ministry has canceled a long-planned cultural agreement with Cuba, part of which would have been the establishment of a branch of the Goethe-Institut in Havana. The Ministry had also withdrawn its part of the financing for the Cuban book fair 2004 (no English-language link, sorry), even though German culture had been the main focus of this event. Funding for German publishing houses to attend the fair also was withdrawn. An unfortunate side-effect of this measure was that the only German publishing houses to participate in the fair were those approved, and whose attendance also was paid for, by ‘Cuba Si!’, an organization affiliated to the former East German communists, at the time called PDS, and now ‘Die Linke’ (left party). Cuba Si! seems to be suspiciously well-financed, and supports the Cuban regime by publishing pro-Castro propaganda. While ‘Die Linke’ insists that it allegedly is a former communist party, and now stands for ‘Democratic Socialism’, the people at ‘Cuba Si! are obviously unreformed communists in the totalitarian mold. You just have to look at the propaganda material for their ‘Boycott Bacardi’ campaign:
(To avoid confusion, there seems to be a ‘Cuba Si! organization in every Western country, as you will find out googling for the term — and no, I won’t link to them.)
While they obviosuly got a very friendly reception, some foreign publishing houses were barred from attending the fair, and independent, private libraries also face increased repression, including jail sentences for some people working there, in the last years.
The (rather leftwing) German magazine ‘Freitag’ I linked to above also notes that the increased repression in Cuba began the very moment when Fidel Castro got Hugo Chavez’s unconditional support. Some other articles I read suggest that both are intent on turning Latin America into a new socialist bloc. More on that in some other posts.
8 thoughts on “Castro, Chavez and increasing repression in Cuba”
I don’t know if you know this, Ralf, but the whole phrase is “¡Cuba sí, Yanqui no!” Sorry to see some Europeans buying into this sentiment.
This whole absurd kabuki play starring Europe, Venezuela, and Cuba just serves to illustrate the limits of soft power. Only a democratic government can be changed or reformed by democratic and peaceful means. Cuba does not have such a government. The remainder of the problem is left as an exercise for the student.
We foresee a popular uprising when Fidel dies, and I for one hope it is not a peaceful death in his bed. For a rather balanced view of Cuban independence and US involvement in achieving it, see http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/hernandez.html
Our motives were not entirely pure, but Cuba obtained its independence from Spain due mostly to our efforts. My only regret is that we did not do the same with the Philippines and give them their independence immediately instead of deferring it. Aguinaldo and his followers deserved better.
We considered the Philippines a commonwealth entity, like Puerto Rico is today, and waited until 1935 to establish a transition government to bring them to full independence over a 10 year period. They had paid their debt of blood and redeemed their country. As revolutionists and anti-colonialists, we had no business doing anything other than sinking the Spanish fleet and going home.
Puerto Rico, BTW, will be independent the moment the people vote in favor of it. They have had several opportunities for independence, and we have also offered them stateship alongside the other 50, but they have decided that they prefer the present arrangement. Puerto Ricans have US citizenship at birth. They enjoy tax benefits not available to the rest of us, elect their own governor and legislature, but do not have voting rights in the US Congress.
A German teammate on my son’s rowing crew was astonished that the US abandoned its naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. I explained that we had had a lease, that its term had expired, and we were unable to reach mutually agreeable terms with the Philippine Republic for its renewal. We were not required to do so, but we also closed down the associated air base (Clark AFB — my father was there briefly en route to fight the Japanese) and turned it over to their government. The German student asked why we had not left Guantanamo in Cuba, and I replied that the lease had not yet expired. We negotiated a perpetual lease with Cuba, as opposed to our 99 year lease with the Philippine Republic. Fidel is stuck with it.
When the Cuban people rise in revolt again, I hope we will support them again. ¡Viva Cuba libre!
Thanks, Mitch. This is just the first post of several on Cuba, Catsro and Chavez, and I’ll address your points in one the next posts.
Ralf – if you haven’t already, Babalu Blog is very interesting to read.
Thanks, Sandy, interesting indeed.
Jimmy Carter will be held accountable for his shameful sign-off of Chavez’s corrupt electoral system during referendum vote. I don’t think the US has had a more pathetic, shameful figure as president/ex-president, ever.
This is a great resource for venezuelan commentary:
Also see this very good Venezuelan blog in English:
The artwork looks like a Dead Head anti-Cuba bit.
It’a variation on the Bacardi logo. The lefties might have cribbed from some heavy metal group for inspiration, though. They are not that creative.
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