Monday, March 22, 2010

Cuba Gets Historic Criticism From Chile's Socialist Party

Cuba Gets Historic Criticism From Chile's Socialist Party
Written by Mira Galanova
Monday, 22 March 2010 05:21

Socialist deputies express concern over human rights violations

Chile's Socialist Party (PS) is condemning the regime of Cuban President
Raul Castro for its abuse of human rights — a historic change in the
attitude of Chile's most important left-wing party, which had never been
critical of this communist country before.

"Our sympathy for Cuba doesn't make us to forget that the human rights
proclaimed and established in the 1948 charter (Universal Declaration of
Human Rights) are of the first priority," reads a declaration of the
Socialist Party (PS) deputies published last week.

Although the PS acknowledged "the show of solidarity that the Cuban
people and authorities have shown towards the Chilean people in various
historical circumstances," Chile's PS also said this doesn't mean they
"should or could hold back from just criticism."

The PS deputies expressed their concern over "prisoners of conscience,"
requesting their immediate and unconditional liberation, to the Cuban
ambassador in Chile.

The declaration brings up the case of Cuban political prisoner Orlando
Zapata Tamayo who died in February after a 85-day hunger strike. This
was the first time in nearly 40 years that a Cuban activist starved
himself to death to protest against government abuses.

Cuba's (illegal) Human Rights Commission says there are about 200
political prisoners still held in Cuba, about one-third less than when
Raul Castro took over as president from his brother Fidel. However, the
group says that the harassment of dissidents has increased over last year.

The chief of the Socialist Party's parliamentary committee, Dep. Sergio
Aguiló, described last week's declaration as historic. "This is the
first time in 20 years of the democracy in Chile that we, the
Socialists, are speaking critically on this topic," he said.

Previously, the closest the PS got to criticism was in 1996 when Cuba's
then-President Fidel Castro visited Chile to attend the 6th
Iberoamerican Summit. At that time the widow of former socialist
president Salvador Allende, Hortensia Bussi, called for political
opening and democratic liberty on the Caribbean island. Castro´s regime
interpreted the episode as a political manoeuvre of the Socialist Party
and the relationship between Cuba and the Allende family became tense.

Current Chilean President Sebastian Piñera criticized his PS
predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, for refusing to meet with Cuban
dissidents on her official visit to the nation in 2009.

He affirmed that his government would strongly defend human rights
giving much more attention to Cuba. Still, he did not rule out a future
official visit to Havana and stated a willingness to meet with leading
authorities as well as with dissidents (ST, Feb. 17).

The PS last week also decided to postpone internal party election until
June because about one third of its membership is located in the
earthquake devastated south central part of the country. The PS also
debated whether or not to extend an invitation to PS dissident Marco
Enriquez-Ominami (MEO) to future PS meetings, reaching no final conclusion.

MEO, 36, bolted the party last year when PS leadership would not allow
him to run as a primary candidate in the nation's presidential primary
and won 20 percent of the national vote as an independent last December,

By Mira Galanova

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