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Spain going soft on Cuba

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POSTED: November 3, 2007 5:01 a.m.
You’d think that when a country emerges from decades of dictatorship, its government would sympathize with countries still under dictatorship.
Take the Czech Republic and Cuba. The former Soviet satellite has been one of the international community’s toughest critics of human-rights violations by the Castro regime. Inside the European Union, the Czech Republic is the leader among Euros who say trade with Cuba and foreign aid should be conditioned to progress in human rights.
Or take Spain and Cuba. Well, maybe not.
Spain had its own 40 years under Gen. Francisco Franco. For a while, especially under former president Jose Maria Aznar, it was Europe’s most vocal critic of the despots in Havana. When the Castro government jailed 75 dissidents in 2003, it was Spain that insisted the EU impose sanctions.
One train bombing and a new socialist government later, it is Spain that insists most loudly the EU lift what remains of those sanctions. And while the debate goes on in Brussels — with the Czech Republic on the opposing side — it was the Spain of President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that worked to ease some restrictions in 2005 and that recently unilaterally decided to re-establish cooperation that had been frozen after the crackdown four years ago.
So relations are on the mend without any improvement in the human-rights situation. Is this something Spain’s government hopes to change? Spanish news agency Europa Press asked that question of Zapatero’s Secretary of State for International Cooperation Leire Pajin, and her answer was that the new accord “is not subordinate to other kinds of policies.”
In other words: Let’s make nice to the Castros no matter how many more dissidents they jail, and let’s make sure we don’t bother them as Cuba transitions from the dictatorship of Fidel to the dictatorship of Raul.
Pretty cold for a high government official in a Western democracy that a) prides itself on showing solidarity with the oppressed people of the world, b) once suffered dictatorship for almost as long as Cuba and c) shares indelible cultural, historical and blood ties with Cuba.
Her boss, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, did not do much better. When Spanish reporters asked him to clarify Pajin’s scandalously callous statement, he said that human rights and the re-establishment of aid are policies that “walk in parallel” and that the two elements should not be “linked or de-linked.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble visualizing the metaphor. No trouble getting the message, though: The government of Spain has no plans to encourage democracy in Cuba.
Of course, even “subordinating” trade and aid to human-rights improvement is not going to convince Havana to ease the repression. When Aznar was in office and Spain was on the side of the dissidents, the dissidents still got crushed.
But at least there was an attempt to do what’s right, instead of the shameful disregard of the Zapatero government.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
 

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