Guillermo Fariñas – ‘I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell’
Guillermo Fariñas: ‘I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell’
DDC | Madrid | 24 de Octubre de 2016 – 11:20 CEST.
Guillermo Fariñas, a winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Thought, has just completed a tour visiting various European
institutions, accompanied by a delegation that included members of the
Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH), the Ladies in White, and the
Christian Democratic Party of Cuba.
During his visit to the European Parliament Fariñas and the delegation
were received by Ana Gomes, an MEP representing the Portuguese
Socialist Group and a member of the Security and Defence Committee of
Foreign Affairs and Human Rights. They were also received by the ALDE
Group, coordinated by Javier Nart, an MEP for Ciudadanos and a member of
the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Security and Defence Subcommittee.
The delegation met with the Subcommittee on Human Rights in Cuba and
with the Group of Friends for Cuban Freedom, presided over by Gabriel
Mato, a Popular Party MEP. He also met with Antonio López Isturiz,
Secretary General of the European People’s Party. Both expressed their
support and commitment to the defense of human rights in Cuba.
At the meeting held with Goge Reimer, President of the Monitoring Group
for Cuba and Central America, special stress was placed on the final use
put to budgeted funds and the labor conditions to which Cubans are
The opposition members also held private meetings with Hans-Olaf Henkel
and Christian Dan Preda, members of the Committees on Foreign Affairs
and Human Rights.
What conclusions do you draw from this trip?
The purpose of my trip was to discuss the Bilateral Agreement between
the EU and Cuba. We believe that the EU must be present in a transition
in Cuba, but through an agreement that includes guidelines governing
when its political prisoners will be released, when crimes of opinion
will be removed from the Penal Code, when there will be an Electoral
Law, when there will be free elections, and when parties and independent
associations will be legalized. And there is none of that. The agreement
respects the Cuban legal framework, and there is not even an evaluation
clause on Human Rights of the type that there was in the deal signed
with Colombia in 2004. This is the result of a media campaign by the
Cuban government, with the complicity of other forces, to make the world
believe that things have changed in Cuba. Fortunately, many MEPs have
realized the actual state of affairs after our visit, and have even
denounced the lack of transparency characterizing the whole process
yielding the agreement.
According to the information transmitted to us, in order for the
Agreement to enter into force it will have to be endorsed by the
parliaments of the member countries, and at least three of them have
told me that under no circumstances will they do so.
Which three parliaments assured you that they will not support the deal?
They asked me not to disclose that, but, as you can imagine: parliaments
of countries that suffered under Communism first-hand.
What was your impression of the meetings at the Council of Europe in
On our visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg we were greeted by
Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe; Jordi Xuclà, President of the Liberal Group; and Jan Fisher,
President of the Popular Party; along with representatives of the
Socialist Group and Ciudadanos.
The Council agreed to process a motion signed by 25 deputies from eight
member countries, calling for a rapporteur to prepare a report on the
democratic deficit in Cuba that can be sent to the High Commissioner. As
we all know, the Council has a very important guidance and advisory
function vis-a-vis the Commission and the Parliament.
Thus, the battle has begun, but there is still a lot of fighting, many
skirmishes, ahead of us. If we act with patience, certainty,
intelligence, courage and determination I think we will, definitely,
prevent the EU from serving as an accomplice of the Cuban regime.
How knowledgeable are the MEPS with regards to the human rights
situation in Cuba, in your view?
I believe that all the parties know what is going on in Cuba. But,
unfortunately, as occurs with terrorism, there are countries that do
not want to take drastic measures until their own houses are on fire, as
it were. I believe that they, until they see blood flowing in Cuba in a
civil war (which hopefully will not occur) will refuse to take action on
European and American companies seeking profits have created a lobbying
group uninterested in the principles of freedom and democracy that
democratic countries and their institutions must defend. For example, in
the agreement they are not even asking the regime to observe ILO
regulations with regards to hiring. Cuban workers now receive only a
percentage of what is given to the Communist State. I think the foreign
factories in Central America are nothing compared to what is going on in
Cuba. In Cuba, we are talking about slavery in the 21st century. It has
become fashionable to play dumb and look the other way in the face of
what is going on. We came to Europe to appeal to Europeans’ sense of
morality and their consciences, and to keep our hope alive that they
will not abandon us to the Castro Government, which rides roughshod over
What else is known about the lobbyists working in the EU in favor of the
The groups are composed of businessmen and lawyers of companies that
hope to obtain profits, and do not care about the human rights issues
involved. I think we should raise international awareness so that people
pressure their elected public officials not to look the other away with
regards to human rights, and to listen. Disregarding human rights will
only lead to a confrontation that, ultimately, could have devastating
consequences for everyone.
Before you were speaking about the peace process in Colombia. Do you
think that this model should be applied in the Cuban case?
Yes. As was done in Colombia, all those involved and concerned must be
present in the negotiations with the Cuban government. But Havana does
not want this. I have personally asked for an appointment with Mr.
Portocarrero in Havana, four times, and he has never received the
winners of the Sakharov Prize. It is a blatant lie to say that the
Department of Foreign Affairs, represented by Ms. Mogherini, has
discussed the terms of the agreement with the opposition. If the Ladies
in White and myself have won the Sakharov Prize, and they have not
spoken with us, then with whom have they spoken?
When do you think a final decision will be made on the deal?
In principle, there has been talk of submitting it for ratification by
the European Parliament before Christmas, and Mrs. Mogherini wanted to
invite Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez to the signing of the Agreement.
After the progress made during this visit, however, I think that the
outlook will be different. The momentum of those who wanted to portray
the agreement as a fait accomplit has been slowed.
Do you think that in this process the Cuban government will give in at
For now it will continue with its strong opposition. It is not going to
budge. They still hope that they can maintain power in Venezuela, and
they also have part of the historical leadership on which the
“Revolution” is based. But it is a matter of principle, of offering help
if the regime moves towards democracy. If Fidel or Raúl Castro do not
take steps, and neither does their successor, the country is going to
become ungovernable. Whoever is next will have to come and negotiate
with Europe. This is why it is time to stand firm on values, because if
there is no progress on human rights there should be no assistance, no
loans or financing. One cannot negotiate with State terrorists and, as I
said at the European Parliament, this is a government made up of bandits
and villains. When negotiating with them the rules must be clear and the
The Cuban government is exhibiting what any child psychologist would
recognize as behavior indicative of a spoiled child to whom everything
must given, or it throws a tantrum and storms off. Spoiled children must
be given a punishment (not beaten). But they cannot be given exactly
what they want. To extrapolate from psychology, in the Cuban situation
this means that they have to be given rules. Otherwise, they will do
nothing. You don´t have to be on the Right or Left. You just have to
stand for democracy.
Should the EU agree to sign an agreement while the one-party system
remains in place?
I think that power has to be placed in the hands of the people. If they
want a one-party system there must a referendum, with international
observers and participation by Cubans abroad. I think that this is the
way. I could be right, or I could be wrong, but what is certain is that
it must done via referendum, not by Fidel or Raúl, or the PCC. A
referendum in which people feel safe to express what they think. If the
Government has nothing to hide, if it really has the support of all the
people, or most of the people, as it contends, it has nothing to fear
from a referendum. This is not a question of imposition. The ultimate
wielder of power should be the people, the citizens of Cuba. This is
what the Cuban government does not want to accept. An agreement has been
reached without making its final implementation contingent upon approval
by the people, as was done in Colombia. The Cuban Government must be
called to account and told that is has to give and take, to cede in
order to receive.
Right now, do you think that the regime has lost something?
I don’t think it has lost anything. It is returning to its roots. The
government sees a lot of interest by civilized governments around the
world in bolstering the segment of small entrepreneurs in Cuba. Thus,
there has been a massive offensive against small entrepreneurs. Having
independent entrepreneurs is not in their best interest, as they are apt
to become politically independent, in which case they cannot be
controlled. Foreign profits and loans are going to go to those
businesspeople. That is not in their interest. It is time for the
civilized and democratic world to stand up and say that if they want
loans they must allow small entrepreneurs to operate. It is a question
of standing firm. It is our hope that the EU will do so. This time I am
hopeful as I bid Europe farewell that the Europeans will not abandon us.
That is why we are here. This is a battle between power and law,
dictatorship and freedom, backwardness and progress. An agreement, yes,
but not this one.
Source: Guillermo Fariñas: ‘I am hopeful as I bid Europe farewell’ |
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