Dissident pleads for firm EU stand on 'cruel' Cuba
Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas urged the EU to stand firm against Havana's "cruel" regime, which barred him from travelling to France to receive a prestigious human rights prize Wednesday.
"My biggest hopes is that you will not let yourselves be fooled by the siren song of a cruel regime of savage communism," Farinas said in a message to the European Parliament ahead of the Sakharov prize ceremony, taking place in his absence.
An empty seat is to be left for Farinas after Cuban authorities failed to deliver a visa allowing him to pick the prize up in person.
In his message, the 48-year-old dissident called on the European Union and the European Parliament to maintain a so-called 1996 "common position" binding Europe's political dialogue with Cuba to its respect for human rights.
Havana had hoped for an improvement in ties and a bending of the policy.
Cuba's "sole aspiration, after simulating imaginary economic changes, is for the European Union and Parliament to lift the common position so they can benefit from credits and investments," he added.
"I ask you not to cave in to the demands of Cuba's governmental elite," he said in the message sent from his home in Santa Clara, east of Havana.
Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament, on Monday made a last-minute plea for Cuban authorities to let Farinas leave the island to pick up the top EU rights prize, but the entreaty fell on deaf ears.
"I hope (EU foreign policy chief) Catherine Ashton will take this into account in relations with Cuba," Buzek said on Tuesday.
Ashton said in a statement Wednesday that the EU would continue to raise human rights in dialogue with Cuba -- including political prisoners, freedom of expression and ratification of the international bill of human rights.
She added: "In this context, I welcome the recent release of a number of political prisoners in Cuba and I hope that the process will lead to the unconditional release of all political prisoners."
Cuba's refusal to allow Farinas to travel to France angered the parliament, which in past years has handed the 50,000-euro (64,150-dollar) award -- named after late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov -- to the likes of Nelson Mandela, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan.
The head of the assembly's conservative EPP group called Cuba's attitude "scandalous".
"It shows Cuban leaders have not changed their bad habits," said Joseph Daul.
The European Parliament named Farinas winner of the prize in October after he staged a 135-day hunger strike following the February 23 death of fellow dissident Orlando Zapata.
Farinas, who has put his health at risk in 23 hunger strikes, ended the protest when President Raul Castro authorised the release of 52 political prisoners following talks with senior Catholic Church clerics in Havana.
In a telephone interview with AFP on the eve of the awards, he slammed the Cuban government as being "arrogant" and treating its people as "slaves".
"I believe that the Cuban government has shown over the years that it is behaving in an arrogant manner," said the independent journalist and psychologist.
"They think that we citizens of Cuba are slaves -- their behaviour demonstrates that."
Farinas is the third Cuban to receive the prize, after Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and the 2005 awarding to the Ladies in White, a group of women whose dissident husbands are jailed.
Last Friday the Nobel Peace Prize committee was obliged to present this year's award to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in his absence.
© 2010 AFP