(The Global Americans) Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union, granted Cuba a sum of 50 million Euros to the Cuban Government without exchanging the money for advances in Cuban Human Rights. Mogherini contributed politically to legitimize a non-democratic process of renewal of authorities in Cuba during her visit to Havana on January 3rd and 4th.
At the press conference she gave on January 4, Mogherini said that, “we are working to formalize the dialogue between the E.U. and Cuba on human rights, a dialogue that we maintain in forty countries. Our dialogue with Cuba regarding Human Rights began in 2015, and since then, this dialogue has allowed us to address the human rights situation both in Europe and in Cuba. There are differences in our respective visions, however, openness, willingness to speak, and mutual respect are always present.”
Mutual respect means that for the European Union (EU), human rights and specially political participation are one thing, while for the Cuban government they are something else, thus converting the whole thing in a deaf’s dialogue. This occurs to such an extent, that since the human rights dialogues began there was no concrete progress in Cuba, which can be explored further in the most recent Amnesty International report. At any rate, Mogherini will have to clarify what are her expectations of the dialogue on human rights with Cuba and what she expects from it.
An interesting fact is the EU is now the first investor and commercial partner of Cuba. Even though, the EU finances large corporation projects for Cuba, Castro's regime has not shown efforts to reach a minimum advancement of human rights. This shows that Mogherini is either an incompetent official or directly has political sympathy with the Cuban dictatorship.
Arguably the worst part about the situation is that the EU, as a regional bloc, adapts institutionally to Cuba and not vice versa. Similar to other countries that interact with the EU, such as Argentina, the Buenos Aires Delegation of the EU maintains independent exchanges with civil society. Independently, the Delegation finances human rights projects regarding press freedom and political participation, among other endeavors. Conversely, in Cuba, the EU only finances official bodies and government NGOs, which hardly meet the transparency requirements required for cooperation projects with the EU.
Additionally, Mogherini held a meeting with one of the beneficiaries of the cooperation with the EU, the Cuban Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, who acted politically intolerant at the Summit of the Americas in Panama and promotes policy to repress the freedom of cultural expression in Cuba.
On the other hand, it is striking that Mogherini’s discourse appears not take into account the recommendations that several EU countries made to Cuba during its last universal review in the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR). The Cuban government representative rejected the sentiments of the OHCHR, making it clear that any dialogue on the subject will be for naught.
For Example, Spain called to, “respect the freedom of expression, association, assembly, and to recognize the legal autonomy of human rights associations through an inclusive official registry system.” France requested, “guaranteed freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the free activity of the defenders of human rights, such as independent journalists and political opponents”. The Netherlands recommended to, “end repression, investigate acts of repudiation, to and protect all persons who are victims of intimidation or violence.” Lastly, Germany asked Cuba to "Refrain from all forms of harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention of activists in favor of human rights.”
The content of all the aforementioned recommendations remain valid given the state of human rights in Cuba. According to Mogherini's actions, a country that violates human rights deserves still merits his respect.
Cuba acts according to the logic of any dictatorship, considering that mutual respect implies sovereign impunity to violate human rights. Likewise, Castro's 59 years in power provides him with diplomatic experience that favors Cuba in international politics: the authorities of other countries and agencies cycle through, while the same government continues in power in Cuba, whereby in dialogue with the new democratic counterpart negotiations start from scratch again and again.
If the EU genuinely wants to make progress on human rights in Cuba, it must first recognize the democratic actors there, instead of extending the illegality that the single-party regime imposes on the citizens. This would help legitimize and morally strengthen human rights activists in Cuba. The Cuban government requires European external aid for its economic mismanagement and decadent political and institutional system. A condition of support that the EU could impose for the money would be for independent political parties and civil society organizations to operate legally, which would imply the possibility to exercise the rights to freedom of association, expression and assembly that are not currently recognized.
In sum, there are ample opportunities to initiate advancements in human rights in a politically closed society like Cuba. It is therefore difficult to understand how the EU grants Cuba so much support without demanding anything in exchange.