Gutierrez to Europe: don't ease Cuba sanctions
Wednesday June 4 2008
By Ron Popeski
KIEV, June 4 (Reuters) – The U.S. commerce secretary urged Europe on
Wednesday to uphold sanctions against Cuba because easing them would
allow the authorities to "get away" with persuading the world human
rights had improved on the island.
Carlos Gutierrez, in an interview with Reuters, said changes announced
since Fidel Castro's retirement in February were "somewhat cynical" and
did nothing to ease widespread poverty or guarantee Cubans fundamental
EU aid commissioner Louis Michel said after visiting Cuba in March that
he wanted to persuade the EU's 27 member states to scrap diplomatic
sanctions adopted after a crackdown on dissent in 2003. Many of the 75
dissidents remain behind bars.
The measures, suspended in 2005, included a freeze on visits by
high-level officials. They did not stop trade and investment in Cuba,
unlike the U.S. trade embargo, in place since 1962.
"The so-called reforms or so-called changes that have taken place in
Cuba, we believe are somewhat cynical. We also believe they are targeted
for international consumption," Gutierrez said after meeting officials
in ex-Soviet Ukraine.
"It is surprising that the world would rather talk about the fact that
Cubans can now visit their own hotels and not talk about the fact that
there are political prisoners starving in jails …"
Regulations announced in April allowed Cubans for the first time to buy
cell phones, computers and other equipment and to rent rooms in hotels
previously reserved for foreign visitors, though most Cubans have too
little money to do either.
Agriculture has also been decentralised and public debate and criticism
EU members are divided on relations with Cuba. Former colonial power
Spain leads advocates of engagement, while the Czech Republic heads a
camp, made up mainly of ex-communist east European states, opposing
closer ties on human rights grounds.
Gutierrez said of the Czech Republic, which he visited earlier this
week: "I never doubted their commitment and didn't really ask them. I
assume they are as outraged as we are at the conditions in Cuba. And how
detrimental it would be to give the regime a pat on the back that would
"It would suggest to Cubans that there is no chance to have real change
because the international community would be letting the regime get away
with the type of change that probably no other country in the world
would see as change," he said.
The sanctions are expected to be on the agenda of a meeting of EU
foreign ministers in Luxembourg on June 16.
"I don't know what Europe will do … I would hope they think first and
foremost about the plight of political prisoners, about human rights and
the message it would send to the world to express support towards
clearly a very repressive dictatorship," Gutierrez said.