Freed dissidents urge EU not to soften its Cuba policy
Eleven freed Cuban dissidents have urged the European Union not to
soften its long-standing demands for democratic change in Cuba.
The group, who arrived last week in Spain, said their release was not a
gesture of good faith but "a desperate action" by the Cuban government.
Cuba has agreed to free 52 political prisoners under a deal agreed with
the Catholic Church and Spain.
A further nine freed dissidents are expected to arrive in Spain this week.
The EU should not change its Common Position on Cuba, the dissidents
said on Monday.
This refers to the policy from 1996 that calls for advances in human
rights and democracy, before relations with Cuba can be normalised.
There had been no clear decision by the Cuban government to move towards
democratisation, a statement from the group said.
"For this reason we ask European Union member states to not soften their
demands for democratic changes in Cuba, so that all Cubans can enjoy the
same rights that European citizens have," they said.
The dissidents' position is at odds with remarks made by Spanish Foreign
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who took part in talks with the Cuban
Speaking after the planned releases were announced on 7 July, Mr
Moratinos said the EU should soften its stance on Cuba.
Mr Moratinos said the largest release of Cuban dissidents since 1998
"opened a new era" in European ties with Cuba.
Spain has in the past called for an end to the Common Position, but
other EU member states have been unwilling to change the policy.
The Cuban government has been under pressure to free dissidents since
one prisoner on hunger strike, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in February.
In another development, the French news agency AFP reports that the US
diplomatic mission in Havana has called a meeting later on Tuesday with
relatives of dissidents who are refusing to leave Cuba.
"All we know is that they (the US mission) have invited a representative
of each prisoner who has not been contacted by the Church or who has
refused to travel to Spain," the head of the Ladies in White opposition
movement, Laura Pollan, told AFP.
Church officials have said that leaving Cuba was not a condition for the