Lifting of EU sanctions on Cuba unwarranted: dissidents

June 21st, 2008 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, June 21 (IANS) Cuban dissidents have termed the European Union (EU)’s lifting of its 2003 diplomatic sanctions on the communist country “unwarranted”, saying there was no change in the rights scenario of the island, EFE reported Saturday. The EU Thursday called off the diplomatic sanctions it had imposed on Cuba in 2003 to protest the arrest of the dissidents known as the Group of 75 and said it would initiate a dialogue with Havana.

The situation that had led to the EU sanctions - the jailing of 75 opposition activists in April 2003 - has not changed, prominent dissidents told EFE.

“I don’t understand why they lifted them (the sanctions) now, if the reasons why they imposed them haven’t changed,” Martha Beatrize Roque said.

Roque, the only woman in the Group of 75 and among those freed for health reasons, stressed that 55 of those who were convicted are still in prison and those released are technically on probation.

“For us it doesn’t change a thing. We’re going to keep fighting for changes to a democracy. What we do know is that we can’t count on any countries of the European Union,” Vladimiro Roca told the news agency.

Madrid maintains that its policy of engagement with Cuba has already borne fruit, such as the release of several political prisoners earlier this year and Havana’s signing of a number of UN rights conventions.

The foreign ministers of the 27 EU member-states said they were lifting the sanctions to facilitate a political dialogue that is “reciprocal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and oriented on achieving results” within the framework of the “changes begun by President Raul Castro”, who replaced ailing elder brother Fidel in February.

The decision to scrap the sanctions will be reviewed in 12 months.

The Bush administration, which has tightened the 45-year-old US economic embargo against Cuba, expressed disappointment with the EU decision.

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