Dutch, Spanish politicians detained in Cuba

18th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

18 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — A diplomatic row with Cuba erupted after two Dutch MPs and a Spanish politician were arrested at Havana Airport on Friday night and deported a short time later.

18 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — A diplomatic row with Cuba erupted after two Dutch MPs and a Spanish politician were arrested at Havana Airport on Friday night and deported a short time later.

Democrat D66 leader Boris Dittrich, Christian Democrat CDA MP Kathleen Ferrier and Jorge Moragas, a representative of the Spanish Popular Party, were detained by Cuban soldiers for two hours. They were then sent on an Air France flight back to Europe.

The trio had travelled to Cuba to examine the human rights situation on the island and were held immediately upon arrival, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

The Cuban authorities said the politicians were planning to hold talks with dissidents. They subsequently declared that on the basis of their visa — a tourist visa entry — that the Dutch and Spanish politicians did not have authority to enter into such discussions.

Dittrich's spokeswoman said the MP had kept her informed of his situation via SMS text messages from his detention cell. "I am furious. I have never experienced anything like this," Dittrich said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot was also outraged by the incident and said he would summon the Cuban ambassador on Monday to demand an explanation. The Dutch ambassador in Cuba was also demanding an explanation from the Cuban government.

The Spanish government meanwhile said the deportation of Moragas was "unacceptable". The Cuban ambassador in Spain was also called to account for the actions of Cuban authorities.

The three politicians had been due to meet with opposition figure Oswaldo Paya. Cuban dissident leaders condemned the arrests, saying that it illustrated the ruthlessness of Fidel Castro's regime, French news agency AFP reported.

Dittrich previously visited Cuba last summer, travelling for three weeks across the island and wrote a report about the trip for his personal web page, in which he claimed "the communist regime of Fidel Castro oppresses the population".

He said the most "perverse" form of oppression was the fact that people were urged to spy on others and report any anti-communist activity.

Children are told at school they should watch for whether their parents' behaviour conflicted with the values of the Castro revolution. If children observed their parents behaving in an anti-communist way, they were urged to report this to the school, Dittrich said.

The same applied in suburbs, where residents could report unbefitting behaviour to the neighbourhood chief, resulting in fear and mistrust of each other. Dittrich said people are always scared of being arrested and thrown in jail.

After his return to the Netherlands, Dittrich was forced to meet with the Cuban ambassador after Cuba took offence to his critical remarks about the island and the fact that he met with dissidents.

The Netherlands currently holds the rotating European Union Presidency and in reaction to the latest incident, Dittrich — who returned home on Saturday — said he would press Minister Bot to cut the EU's diplomatic relations with Cuba to a strict minimum.

The EU imposed diplomatic sanctions on Havana last year when three Cubans were sentenced to death for attempting to flee to the US by hijacking a plane. Cuban courts also handed down heavy jail sentences to 75 dissidents.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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