Dagoberto Valdés asks the EU not to treat Havana like ‘a normal government’

The Cuban state “cannot be treated as a normal government,” said the former director of the magazine Vitral, Dagoberto Valdés, in reference to the EU’s decision in June to lift diplomatic sanctions placed against Havana in 2003.

“The EU’s new gesture, under the leadership of the Spanish government, which “took over” the responsibility of leading the policy mission for the whole bloc in its relations to Cuba, was answered with “contempt” by Fidel Castro and Felipe Pérez Roque,” said Valdés in an interview granted with the Spanish newspaper ABC.

“The things that the EU was hoping for, a correspondence with more opening, seem unlikely to be met with a response,” added Valdés, who launched the publication digital Convivencia (www.convivenciacuba es) at the beginning of this year.

“The situation in Cuba has not changed as was hoped for economically, politically nor socially. What the people need are liberty, democracy, private initiative”, he affirmed.

To the question about the political dialogue with Havana to which the 27 EU countries compromised themselves and that should include the subject of human rights, Valdés answered that he is in favor of “the dialogue directed towards democratization that doesn’t only look at commercial interests.”

“I do not want proposals full of empty policies about democratization and the defense of human rights, as if the EU and Spain consider Cuba having a democratic government, when it has been a dictatorship for the last 50 years,” he commented.

“We were hoping for a more consistent political line from Spain, with more real content relating to a state that systematically violates the human rights,” added.

The Spanish government was the main driving force of lifting the measures adopted by the EU in 2003 —also at the suggestion of Spain— to protest against the imprisonment of 75 dissidents and the execution of three men that abducted a tugboat full of passengers.

The measures had been suspended since 2005, but Havana required their total elimination as a condition for normalizing relations with the EU.

“Officially there has not been formal answer to the EU, but there has been an increase in repression; the police presence in the streets has been a lot more visible and there are growing difficulties in transport between provinces,” said Valdés.

On Fidel Castro’s reaction to subjects such as the lifting of the sanctions, which have been viewed by many as proof that there are discrepancies within the state, Valdés stated that “it is clear that a hard line exists and a more moderate one, not only in this case, but in many others that are coming out more often.”

In a reflection published after the decision of the twenty-seven, Castro qualified the EU’s gesture as one of “enormous hypocrisy.”

Valdés, who directed the Pinar del Rio diocese’s Vitral magazine until April of 2007 – when, he said, that the new bishop ‘intervened’ by saying that he wanted “to avoid even the slightest friction” with the government, has just published the fourth issue of Convivencia, which includes contributions from the independent economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe and the blogger Yoani Sánchez, among others.

When asked pointedly if he has suffered any retaliation because of his new publication, Valdés recalled that “Néstor Pérez, a law student, was expelled of the University of Pinar del Rio for writing an audiovisual criticism of the series on the Spanish transition of Victoria Prego.”

“Other collaborators have already had to endure pressure in their workplace or studies.” These are “consequences that every alternative civic project can expect in a totalitarian society,” added Valdés, who rejected being a ‘cyber-dissident.’

“I am not a political opponent, with a program and a party, but I think differently than the system. I am a civic cheerleader. Civil society is being born in Cuba right now and it is in the ‘third leg,’ together with the government and the opposition, where we want to work,” he pointed out.

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