Wednesday, August 4

Spanish disinterest

For years, one of the most active and interested people in human rights in Cuba in Brussels was a Czech MEP. Edvard Kozusnik, who became famous for traveling from Prague to Strasbourg by bicycle for his first session in 2009, organized talks, interviewed dissidents and brought together European journalists to discuss the matter. There were almost never Spanish MEPs in those meetings.

He did not care about the fights between Spanish parties and there they only talked about Cuba, the Cubans and what the EU was doing. His view was conservative, but he seemed to have no interest in herding a Czech colleague on the subject.

Undoubtedly there were also and are Spanish MEPs genuinely interested in respecting human rights in places where Spain has some capacity to influence. But the most common is that Cuba was and is another excuse for reproaches between parties with empty debates of little impact for the island and its inhabitants.

In the last four years, what the positions of Spain, the EU and even the United States have in common is, in fact, the little effect on the lives of Cubans and on the advance towards democracy.

The closest thing to anything was Barack Obama’s policy change to ease the embargo and increase communication between the United States and Cuba. Philip Brenner, one of the leading experts on relations between the two countries, believes that this did have an impact and resulted in some steps, albeit timid, in Cuba towards democracy and economic openness. The detail of to what extent this works is the type of productive and serious debate for those interested in the question that is so little heard, on the other hand, in Spain.

It is certainly disheartening to see political leaders locked into defining the Cuban regime while most show little interest in an island with immigration, history and language ties to Spain. It seems that this does not exist and only the voice of large companies that have hotels and other businesses in Cuba counts.

Those who watch the debate with surprise at this point are those who suffer from the lack of basic freedoms -the truth, not the one that translates into staying at home watching series while the toilets risk their lives to save that of others-. This is the case of Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Cuban journalist and writer, a young man who could not be further from the easy and increasingly false caricature of the elderly and wealthy Cuban from Miami. Carlos Manuel told Javier Biosca in this interesting interview: “The left has to review its sentimental altar and update it to truly propose a possibility for the future.”

Hard to understand how the lack of freedoms, the persecution of homosexuals, arbitrary arrests, the absence of elections or the cut of communications can be on any altar.

But beyond the bombastic phrases that politicians and socialists like so much, it seems that the debate in Spain is empty.

The limited interest of any Spanish government in international affairs and more if they involve promoting change or a nuisance for construction, hotel or telephone companies, makes it doubt that Spain will have influence now or in the future in a democratic transition in Cuba. There is also no special interest in Cuban migrants who now arrive by dangerous routes.

Edvard has not been a MEP for a long time and surely there is someone else passionate about Cuba for reasons that transcend the national partisan fight. But I wonder if any of them are Spanish.

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