Russia: Putin 'to deploy troops to Cuba' says Ehrlich
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The Russian invasion of Ukraine inevitably shifted our focus on international politics eastwards. But Rosa María Payá of campaign group Cuba Decide said now more than ever it is important world leaders take action against the Cuban regime, which she highlights is working in lockstep with Vladimir Putin.
Cuba has featured only minimally in the British news agenda in recent decades, over which time (and, indeed, beyond which time) its people, as Cuba Decide starkly notes, have been “held hostage by an oppressive dictatorship that denies in law and in practice the most basic human rights of its own people”.
Ms Payá stressed Britain, having left the EU and hoping to make an impression on the world stage, has a “big opportunity to” to support the people of Cuba and, at the same time, deal a blow to Moscow.
She told Express.co.uk she was motivated to travel to the UK at the end of last month to draw the attention of British officials towards the “critical situation one the island on almost all fronts”, including a “very harsh” economic situation which makes it hard – “close to impossible” – for many Cubans to get to the end of the week, and a “sanitary crisis”, made all the worse by the “negligent” of Cuban authorities during the pandemic.
Perhaps the most serious of the issues she raised was the brutal, long-standing repression of the regime.
Ms Payá described “sham trials against hundreds of protesters who have been in jail for seven months now and have been condemned to up to 30 years in prison for peacefully protesting last summer”.
This, she added, included children aged 16 and 17 who have been “condemned to 18 years in prison”.
A situation that should be hard to ignore, yet that appears to have been swept under the rug.
Ms Payá was particularly critical of the European Union over its engagement with the Cuban regime, “including channeling funds to the Cuban regime under some corporation agreements which is very concerning given what has taken place on the island”.
The European Parliament has, in fact, taken the same approach, denouncing “in the strongest terms” the abuse against protestors in Cuba, according to its December 2021 press release.
MEPs also slated Brussels for the fact that since the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2017, which states a joint desire to “deepen their links… in a spirit of mutual respect and equality”, “the situation of democracy and human rights in the country has not improved but has instead deteriorated seriously”.
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While these politicians may not be able to convince EU leaders to change their approach, Britain can now determine its own approach on the world stage.
To date, it has, as Ms Payá highlighted, maintained the “same position” as Brussels. It was even tied into the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, having not officially left the bloc until three years after this was signed.
She provided a list of specific, targeted actions the British Government could now take, independently of the EU, to stop letting the Cuban regime off the hook for its abuses and to stand in solidarity with the people of the island.
On this was the cancelling of Havin Bank’s license – authorised in 1973 – to operate in the UK, this being the only bank with entirely Cuban capital established outside of Cuba. Its central shareholder is the Central Bank of Cuba.
This, Ms Payá stressed, did not just represent a too-close bond with the Cuban regime but directly benefited “the Castro family and the Cuban military, [providing it with] funds that are being used for the repression of the Cuban people”.
The Cuban people, she added, “can only hope that the British Government is going to cancel that license”.
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Cuba Decide has all proposed a set of range of sanctions to be implemented against the Cuban regime.
Ms Payá said this would not result in the Cuban people becoming poorer still because “the sanctions we are asking for are individual, targeted sanctions” against officials.
She added that politicians she approached while in the UK were “open and ready” to take action once they realised what was at stake.
The defiant activist was in no doubt when asked whether failing to act, and continuing to work in some ways with the Cuban regime aided the repression of the Cuban people: “That’s a fact. It cannot be otherwise.
“Funds that the EU and, actually, the UK are channeling to the island are being processed by the Cuban regime, which, to be clear, is a military conglomerate.”
It is well known that the Cuban military is greatly linked to the Cuban economy.
As journalist Marc Frank put it in a 2017 op-ed for Reuters: “American [and, for that matter, British] tourists strolling the ample squares and narrow streets of colonial Havana may not know it, but from novelist Ernest Hemingway’s famed Floridita bar to Sloppy Joe’s eatery, they are probably patronising businesses owned by Cuba’s military.”
The implications of Britain’s impunity towards the Cuban regime and its economy are extreme, with Ms Payá declaring in no uncertain terms its leaders are “responsible for crimes against humanity…
“Actually, they are responsible for the state terrorism that is being implemented on the island on a daily basis.”
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