Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

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.

The Cuban leader accused European nations of being "corrupt, immoral, exploitative hypocrites", suggesting they created colonialism and unfair trade, which they "keep in place even today", according to AFP.

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"They are as low, as they always have been", Mr Castro said at a teachers' graduation ceremony.

He comments on Friday (28 October) came in reaction to the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought award to Damas de Blanco, meaning "Ladies in White".

The group of wives, mothers and sisters of the imprisoned political opponents of the communist leader shared the 2005 prize with a Nigerian human rights lawyer and a French organisation dedicated to defending journalists.

The official Sahkarov prize ceremony is scheduled for 16 December, and the Cuban women will need government approval to leave the island in order to attend.

No change after sanctions lifted

It is the second time within three years that MEPs have granted the prize to Cuban activists, after the opposition leader Oswaldo Paya received the award in December 2002.

A few months after Mr Paya appeared in the European Parliament's seat in Strasbourg, the Cuban authorities jailed 75 of his colleagues in the opposition movement.

The EU reacted with a series of diplomatic sanctions in June 2003, which were only lifted earlier this year in a bid to promote dialogue with the communist government.

With several member states opposing the move to lift the sanctions in January, the bloc agreed its diplomats would keep communicating with the Cuban opposition.

However, the country's regime has recently banned a reception organised by the Czech embassy in a Havana-based hotel, on the grounds that Damas de Blanco's scheduled attendance gave the event a "counter-revolutionary character", Czech media reported.

Of the 75 political prisoners, just 14 have been released so far, mostly due to health problems.

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