Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From somebody to nobody

Posted on Wednesday, 10.27.10

From somebody to nobody

Granted, Miguel Angel Moratinos has been summarily relieved from his
duties as Spain's foreign minister. Tearful as he may be about losing
his job in Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's
Cabinet shuffle intended to spur economic recovery, Moratinos is a lucky

He's still a member of parliament. He did not have to stand before
colleagues reading a belittling confession accusing himself of
ungratefulness, disloyalty, selfishness and ideological deviationism. He
has a passport and can travel, may be invited to join a corporate board
or teach at a prestigious university. His friends don't have to deny
they know him, and his name won't be stricken from Spain's history books.

The same can't be said for former Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina of
Cuba, or even for his successor Felipe Pérez-Roque. Both have vanished
from public life and have become virtual nonpersons.

Moratinos spent a lot of effort -- much of it in vain -- in the last six
years trying to burnish the Castro regime's public image and to reassert
Spain's leadership within the European Union on Cuba policy. Until the
collapse of European communism, Madrid's views about Cuba were accepted
with nary a dissent by European countries. That ended when Czechs,
Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians, et al joined the European Union and offered
more credible insights on Cuba, based on their experience with communist
rule. Even so, Moratinos argued for ending the European Union's ``Common
Policy'' in support of democratic political reform and respect for human
rights in Cuba.

For Havana, last week was not very good. Not only was Moratinos fired on
the eve of another European meeting to consider Cuba policy, but the
European parliament also announced its award of the prestigious Sahkarov
Prize to Guillermo Fariñas. A political prisoner in Cuba, Fariñas gained
international attention with a 140-day hunger strike early this year,
which led to some prisoner releases. Previous Sakharov Prize winners
include South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fariñas is not the first Cuban dissident to be so honored. Oswaldo Payá,
the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement leader who dared to present
thousands of petitions asking for a plebiscite to Cuba's parliament,
received it in Strasbourg in 2002. The Ladies in White, a group of women
-- mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, of political prisoners who gather
and peacefully march to Sunday mass -- were awarded the prize in 2005.
The Cuban government turned down their request to be permitted to travel
abroad to receive the award.

Moratinos' last favor to Fidel and Raúl Castro was to pretend that he
had had something to do with the release of prisoners, whom according to
statements from Madrid, were being ``allowed'' to travel to Spain. In
reality, those released were exiled, together with their relatives,
including young children whose passports are clearly stamped: ``Return

Ah, but imagine for a moment: What if Moratinos had been born in Pinar
del Rio, served as Castro's foreign minister and been dismissed like
Robaina? Robaina, too, was the darling of the European left and a
revolutionary. One day, Robertico was schmoozing with heads of state;
the next day, he was nothing. Sent away to work on a farm in the
provinces, a nonperson, his name never to be mentioned again in a Cuban
newspaper, radio or TV program.

Robaina's experience is not unique. Pérez-Roque, hand-picked by Fidel
Castro to take over after Robaina, was similarly dismissed. Other
Cubans, poets, writers, ministers and military officers have gone
through the same Castro ritual, all hoping that, if they repented, their
families could stay in the house the government gave them, their wives
wouldn't be fired from their jobs, their children wouldn't be expelled
from the university or, in the case of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, would not be
taken before the execution wall. The promise to Ochoa was not kept.

Perhaps Moratinos would take notice: European democracies treat their
foreign ministers -- and citizens -- with a lot more respect than Cuba.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba based
in Arlington, Va.

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