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Cuba Opens Its Doors while the World Shuts Its Eyes

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Apr 16, 2014, 10:31 am

EspañolIt never fails to impress how after 55 years of oppressive communist dictatorship and perpetual violation of human rights and international law, the Castro brothers regime still manages to arouse appeal, either through sympathy, fear, or simple pragmatism.

Last week, President of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), visited Havana. During the meeting, which was not made public until after it concluded, the newly elected Sánchez Cerén and Raúl Castro discussed “the smooth progress of bilateral relations and prospects for their development,” according to a statement published in the official Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

El presidente electo de El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén se juntó con el dictador Castro. Foto: Estudio Revolución
President-elect of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, together with Raúl Castro. Source: Estudio Revolución.

They also surely spoke about the always-complex Latin-American scene, and, in particular, the difficult situation their “revolutionary comrade” Nicolás Maduro finds himself in, along with the state of Venezuelan oil, which Cuba and the rest of the Bolivarian Alliance depend on.

Last week, Raúl Castro also welcomed French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to the island in a truly historic visit, as Fabius became the first French senior official to set foot on the island of Cuba in over 30 years. The meeting served to parlay business opportunities in energy, tourism, education, agriculture, and finance, as well as to discuss policy matters despite ideological differences.

Without a doubt, this visit is part of the new approach in diplomacy and commerce toward Cuba that was agreed upon on February 10 by members of the European Union. An initial round of negotiations for an agreement on political dialogue is to be held on April 29 and 30 in Havana.

Of course, neither visitor, the French and much less the Salvadorian, asked about the Cuban dissidents who have been persecuted and imprisoned. Likewise, neither inquired as to the famous “economic reforms,” which are clearly superficial, limited, and long-delayed changes, as noted by the dissident Elizardo Sánchez on various occasions.

Apparently, the recent approval of the new Foreign Investment Law, promoted by the Castro government as part of its economic reforms to “update” socialism — along with the World Bank assessment in early April that the process of modernizing and updating the Cuban economy is “very serious” — was more than enough for these visitors to believe firmly in these supposed changes. As such, the only concern that remains for the potential “opening” of the Cuban regime is the threat of a deteriorating situation in Venezuela, the main supplier of oil to the island.

As with Venezuela, democratic governments inside and outside the hemisphere prefer to look the other way when it comes to actually defending democratic values against the worsening political repression in Cuba. According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), “during the months of January and February in 2014, there were 2,103 people arrested on politically motivated charges, more than in all of 2010, when there were 2,074 arrests on these grounds.”

The new Salvadoran president’s attitude of admiration and infatuation with the Cuban dictatorship is understandable. Sánchez Cerén is also a communist and a former guerrilla with ideological, political, and historical ties to the Castro brothers.

On the other hand, the position of the French Foreign Affairs Minister and the European Union is completely incomprehensible. This is pure economic pragmatism. They surely want to recover the lost time they spent during the years the European Union isolated Cuba and imposed diplomatic sanctions in response to the imprisonment of dozens of dissidents. During that time, other countries moved ahead with business and commerce, most notably Spain, Italy, Canada, Brazil, and Mexico.

The Cuban situation remains a major hemispheric shame. Now as the island opens up its economy, ever so slightly, no one cares any more that it remains a dictatorship.

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.