Spanish foreign minister defends Cuba policy

29th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The decreasing number of political prisoners in Cuba is a sign the policy was delivering “results”, says Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Madrid – Spain's foreign minister defended Wednesday Madrid's policy of seeking rapprochement with Cuba despite criticism from dissidents in the Communist-ruled island, saying it was bearing fruit.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told parliament that the number of political prisoners in Cuba had dropped in recent years "from 300 to 200" and this was a sign the policy was delivering "results".

"The Vatican, the European Union and the Ibero-American continent defend the Spanish position, and (US) President (Barack) Obama himself has made gestures in the direction of the Spanish position," he added.

He has been criticised by Spain's conservative opposition as well as by the Wall Street Journal, which called him "Havana's man in Europe" in an editorial, for not meeting with dissidents during his 18-19 October visit to Cuba.

In a letter released Tuesday, 37 Cuban dissidents, including 31 political prisoners, criticised Madrid's policy towards Cuba's "totalitarianism".

They expressed hope it would not "spread" throughout the EU when Spain holds the rotating presidency of the bloc in the first half of 2010.

They were especially critical of Moratinos' stated desire to scrap the EU's "common position of 1996", which links further cooperation with Cuba with improvements in human rights, during Spain's turn at the helm of the EU.

Moratinos has said he would like to replace it with a bilateral agreement between the EU and Cuba.

"The government has an enormous respect for the opposition and dissidents," he said, adding Spain's embassy in Havana was "in permanent contact" with the opposition in Cuba.

This allows Spain to "transmit all humanitarian demands and requests for the liberation of dissents" to the regime of Raul Castro, he added.

Spain's policy on Cuba shifted in 2005 after Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came to power the previous year. His conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, had adopted a policy of isolating the Communist island.

In 2007 Spain and Cuba, a former Spanish colony, renewed ties damaged by Havana's jailing of 75 dissidents in 2003.

AFP / Expatica

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