Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Nobel nominee dispels ‘Island of Freedom’ myth

Nobel Prize nominee and last year’s winner of the Sakharov prize, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, explains in an interview with the EUobserver why he is not able to travel to Europe to discuss the political situation in his native country, Cuba.

"My government has its own mechanisms to stop me from going - even though I have a passport and a visa to get to the EU", he said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • OSWALDO PAYÁ -believes in the power of international solidarity with the people fighting for fundamental human rights in Cuba (Photo: Vladimir Bartovic)

Mr Payá Sardiñas was supposed to go to a session of the European Parliament at the beginning of September to present the situation of political prisoners arrested in Cuba about half a year ago, but was prevented from doing so.

The Cuban was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights in December 2002. Mr Payá Sardiñas believes that it is this international recognition - strengthened by high expectations concerning his Nobel Prize nomination - that prevented the regime from arresting him, along with 78 dissidents and human rights activists in March this year.

The majority of them had been participating in the Project Varela - a petition organised by Mr Payá Sardiñas' Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, which calls for a referendum on free elections in Cuba. The members of the movement keep collecting the signatures, even under the threat of arrest.

The prisoners - sentenced for up to 25 years - face humiliating conditions.

"They're often treated worse than criminals - kept in tiny cells, in most cases far away from home, so when their relatives want to visit them, they have to travel for a few days. Many of them do not get the medical care they need or even the mail from their families", says Mr Payá Sardiñas.

EU reactions

The European Union has, on a number of occasions, called on the Cuban authorities to release the prisoners, and consequently also limited its diplomatic contacts with the island.

However, even though the Communist leader Fidel Castro rejected the EU's offer of humanitarian aid, MEPs in their latest resolution asked the Union to keep to it to help the Cuban people.

"We think that the Cuban problem has its Cuban solution and it must be made by the Cubans", said Mr Payá Sardiñas.

"But the rights of Cubans are the rights of human beings, and I think that Europe is sending a message to both Cuba and the world that these rights cannot be violated forever, while at the same time pretending that Europe accepts it and can maintain its relations with the government as if nothing has happened".

False myths about Cuban communism

Mr Payá Sardiñas thinks that those people who are trying to bring about a peaceful regime change in Cuba have been ignored for too long.

"They would even call us 'the island of freedom', and view our history as something mythical, a nostalgic icon for the left-wing political groups. But nothing like political right and left exists in Cuba, just a regime based on the power of one man or a group around him".

Apart from some support from the EU, they have also been supported by non-governmental organisations in Spain, Holland, Sweden, and, as Mr Payá Sardiñas points out, "also from countries like the Czech Republic or Slovakia which have experienced the hardship of communism".

Castro attacks European leaders and rejects EU aid

Cuban President Fidel Castro has marked the 50th anniversary of the guerrilla battle that launched the Cuban revolution by delivering a withering attack on the EU and individual leaders in Europe. Eastern Europe came under special attack as former Communist states.

EU set to normalise relations with Cuba

EU foreign ministers are set to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba but the decision – expected on Monday - is being disputed within the EU. The biggest group in the European Parliament has criticised the approach to Havana.

Castro rails at EU for granting prize to Cuban women

Cuban president Fidel Castro has rebuffed the European Parliament's decision to grant its top human rights prize to female relatives of Cuban political prisoners, with measures taken to prevent EU embassies from inviting the laureates to official receptions.

Stakeholder

EU-Cuba agreement: A path to human rights and democracy?

The ALDE group recently hosted a conference to discuss the EU-Cuba agreement and Cuba's path towards human rights and democracy. Civil society representatives from Cuba said the agreement failed to consult the people.

Agenda

Europe goes to New York This WEEK

Iran and climate change likely to dominate as French president Emmanuel Macron speaks for Europe at the UN general assembly in New York this week.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us