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Cuba Closes the Door to the European Union

Fidel Castro responses to EU criticism on human rights

''Cuba does not need the aid of the European Union to survive,'' Castro said before a 10,000 crowd marking the 50th anniversary of the assault to an army garrison in Santiago. That was the first military action of the revolution that overthrew Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship six years later.

 

50 years later, Fidel Castro decided to break off political ties with the old continent, after the EU limited high-level bilateral government visits and reduced the profile of member states' participation in cultural events in Cuba. Brussels is concerned about the situation of the dissidents imprisoned due to counterrevolutionary activities in March. The European Commission also froze Havana's request to join the aid accord known as the Cotonou Agreement.

 

Castro also said that Cuba would accept aid only from regional or local governments, Non- Governmental Organizations (NGO's), and solidarity movements in Europe ''which do not impose political conditions on Cuba.'' Castro's statement comes at a moment in which EU diplomats hold meetings with Cuban dissidence by inviting them to their embassies for official receptions.

 

Last month, Cuban leaders headed a massive mobilization against EU new policy toward the island. Waving flags in front of the Italian and the Spanish embassies, President Fidel Castro, himself, led the marches in his traditional olive green uniform, while demonstrators carried pictures of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Spanish head of Government Jose Maria Azanar. Marchers accused both European leaders of being "fascists" for their position on Iraq's war, fiercely criticized by Havana.

 

Castro addressed a stormy speech to the crowd, in which he attacked European countries for ''plundering'' their colonies and leaving billions of people in poverty and underdevelopment. The Cuban leader also said that they should compensate African countries for ''the damage wreaked throughout centuries by slavery and colonialism.''

 

Castro's controversy with the EU is a risky bid for Cuba, especially for its weakened economy after 40 years of US blockade. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Europe became the only source of foreign investment into the Island and the source of most of its tourism. Therefore, the EU provides with most of the incomes in hard currency of Cuba. Also, the EU historically acted as a balance of power within the United Nations Human Rights Committee, where the US repeatedly pushes forward condemning resolutions against Castro's regime.

 

Despite opening up to tourism and foreign investment, Cuba's economy never fully recovered from the collapse of Soviet Socialism. There was a Latin American joke in the eighties, which says that 90 per cent of Siberian snow was not snow but Cuban sugar. In fact, the USSR used to buy most of Island's exports.

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