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Spain and Cuba: the failure of appeasement

spain and cuba the failure of appeasementSpain and Cuba: the failure of appeasement. How do Spain and Europe want to accompany Cuba in the medium and long term? By collaborating with the repressors or by stopping them in their tracks?

Almost a month after the historic protests in Cuba, the international community -Spain included- is still digesting how to respond to an eventuality of which everyone was warned. Meanwhile, thousands of citizens have been arbitrarily detained, fined or sentenced in summary trials, and the regime of Miguel Diaz-Canel is trying to heat up the streets with meager demonstrations of support that the newspaper El Pais, however, describes as a "mass bath". 

I do not know if the shootings against the civilian population, the beatings, the women and children run over by the military are enough reasons for Pedro Sánchez and Josep Borrell to change their erratic course. It is clear that the situation has exploded in their hands. Last June, before the European Parliament, Borrell relativized the situation in Cuba by questioning the alleged exaggeration of some MEPs: "Do you want me to list all the countries in the world [...], where democracy is not practiced, liberal, multiparty, competitive? Why strange reason you only talk about Cuba?". His obsession comes from 2018, when he asked before the Spanish Senate, "And is it the only one [dictatorship]? Of course there are more. That's why Raúl Castro used to say that next time he would come with a turban, to see if that way they would be less critical of him."

Some wonder when Spain ceased to be a positive influence on Cuba in the EU. One would have to go back to the last years of Mariano Rajoy. The then Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, decided to sacrifice the Popular Party's policy to repatriate the Spanish citizen Ángel Carromero. The regime had taken advantage of his imprisonment in Havana to cover up responsibilities in the death of dissident leader Oswaldo Payá. Thus, it once again applied its extraordinary blackmailing capacity to neutralize Spain.

After the mistakes of Margallo -and of Alfonso Dastis, who followed his line-, the triumphant social-communist coalition has multiplied its gestures towards the oldest dictatorship in the Western hemisphere, with contempt for human rights groups, both inside and outside the island.

The Cuban Women's Network asked Irene Montero for help in denouncing the repression against dissident women, but the minister did not respond. Carmen Calvo and Arancha González Laya were also mute in the face of similar requests from the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights. Vilification of democrats, and more gestures towards Castroism. Now they try to cover up their shame by meeting with a famous artist.

The debate on whether Cuba is a dictatorship seems pertinent and pedagogical in the Spain that will prohibit the apology to Francoism, but will allow the exaltation of Castro, Lenin or Stalin. However, there is no need to flagellate oneself because a government avoids calling another with which it maintains diplomatic relations a dictatorship. What is really important are policies and decisions, a matter in which the social-communist Executive has been particularly perverse.

The Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024, designed by Gonzalez Laya, assures about the island: "It is in a moment of updating its political and economic model". No one in the Cuban opposition understood such an approach. While Spain was indulging in onanism, Cuba was martyring activists, journalists and independent artists with impunity.

The list does not end. A few months ago, Spanish socialists in the European Parliament warned the Havana regime that a resolution critical of its human rights violations would be tabled. "I wonder if you want to warn the Cuban Embassy or should I?" wrote a PSOE official in Brussels, according to a leaked e-mail.

Legislators of a democratic country serving as runners for a dictatorship! The PSOE, as expected, voted against condemning the repression on the island. A few days later, the ruling party blocked a PP motion in the Spanish Senate, because in its opinion it should not "question the independence of the Judiciary and the Prosecutor's Office of another country [Cuba!], directly accusing it of allowing arbitrary detentions and repressive actions".

As reality itself has attested, appeasement is the worst way to go. The EU Common Position did not bring about change, nor did the "normalization" of recent years. In any case, and until the expected day arrives, nothing is more ethical than to stand by the victims and return to the previous consensus, strictly in line with EU values. What else can be done? For example, making generous debt relief conditional on structural changes in the Cuban economy, individually sanctioning human rights violators, under the recently approved European mechanism, and accompanying the democratic opposition morally and materially.

After the summary trials and convictions, Miguel Díaz-Canel has a new prison mass for the already traditional exchanges of Castroism. It will be necessary to move heaven and earth to free political prisoners, but also to maintain sanctions until credible reforms take place.

How do Spain and Europe want to accompany Cuba in the medium and long term, by collaborating with the repressors or by stopping them? Madrid must regain European leadership, which is now occupied by Lithuania. Fortunately, the Baltic country came to the aid of the Cuban victims by blocking the Political Dialogue Agreement with Havana (unanimously by its parliament). Spain wants the Cubans themselves to decide their fate. And this means, in Caribbean Spanish, "let them manage as they can, as long as they do not touch our hotels".

Cuba remains today the most pro-Spanish country in the Americas. Not even the bloody war of independence prevented hundreds of thousands of Spaniards from returning to live after 1898, without revenge or resentment. Today, the coexistence of the Iberian companies with the slavery practices of the regime, the abandonment of Aznar's policy by Rajoy's PP and the obscenity of PSOE and UNO Podemos, make up the worst scenario for Spain in the face of a possible democratic transition in Cuba. To defend national interests is not to kneel on the ground for Castroism, but for all Cubans.

Author: Michel D. Suárez, Cuban journalist based in Spain.

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