by • November 3, 2007 • CubaComments (0)639

“The Transitional Menu,”

Nikola Horejs of the People in Need civic group in Prague insisted that Latin American countries also have things to teach the Cuban transition, and that we should not always look at East-Central Europe for lessons. This was a case of globalized role reversal—a Czech telling me to look into my own backyard. And yes, Nikola was correct, there are many lessons. But as I conclude the brief essay, Latin America mostly should be used as a case of what not to do. The Lech Walesa Institute (courtesy of Agnieszka Gratkiewicz) also published this article, including in Polish.

Nikola Horejs del grupo cívico “People in Need” en Praga, insistía que las transiciones latinoamericanas también aportaban lecciones para Cuba, no solo las de Europa centro-oriental. Fue algo irónico que un checo me estuviera instigando a enfocarme en mi propio hemisferio. Nikola tenía razón, aunque mas bien las lecciones resultan ser negativas. Cuba puede aprender qué evitar cuando viendo hacia el sur. El Instituto Lech Walesa (cortesía de Agnieszka Gratkiewicz) también publicó el articulo en varios idiomas.

Cuba – Europe
No. 3 / 2007
Four Lessons from Chile
Rodolfo Seguel molina
Plan Martí
luis Alberto Lacalle
Manuel Espino
The Next Steps for
the Americas
Jaime Trobo
Hernán Alberro
Five Europeans Shaking
Castro’s Legends
Jan Ruml
Transitional Experience:
An Economic Analysis of
Central European Reforms
Leszek Balcerowicz
Julio Borges
Fidel’s Pilgrims
Claudio Paolillo
The Cuban View
Lucas Garve
The Mexican Debt to Cubans
Cristián Castaño Contreras
ICDC’s Virtual Embassy
Economic Relations
Medical Cooperation
David I. Rabinowitz
An Opportunity for Mexico
Fredo Arías King
Unity for Freedom
Policy Recommendations
for the EU
NGO Activities
The Transitional Menu
Gabriel C. Salvia
Is Cuba a Right-Wing Topic?
Quarterly bulletin on relations between Cubans and EuropeansA Right Wing Topic?
Argentina, Latin America
and Cuba
Gabriel C. Salvia
embargo and the reputed “David and
Goliath,” fight, and despite the beliefs
that social rights are superior to civ-
il and political liberties, no one who
considers himself to be a democrat
can regard the Cuban revolution as
a defendable phenomenon. Then why
is it that so many representatives of
Argentinean democracy identify them-
selves with the Cuban dictatorship or
are at least indulgent towards it?
There are many answers to this ques-
tion, yet the most important thing to
be considered now is the idea of col-
laboration with the critics of Castroism
in Argentina.
Obviously, among Argentinean left-
wing democrats, only a very few open-
t is likely that Argentina is one
of those countries whose attitude
has been a great disappointment for
Cuban democrats. They simply fail to
understand why a country which itself
had a first-hand experience of a cruel
dictatorship shows no solidarity with
the island. Notwithstanding the differ-
ent arguments that try to justify the
long-lasting dictatorship of the Cas-
tro brothers, especially the American

And the public opinion in Argenti-
na would really be much different
if Castro`s dictatorship was open-
ly damned by the Grandmothers
of the Plaza de Mayo 1 , the Centre
for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) 2 ,
progressive and influential journal-
ists or other important figures. The
problem is not that the Grandmoth-
ers, the CELS or personalities such
as the ex-president Raúl Alfonsín
would defend the Cuban revolu-
tion, but rather that in Argentina,
the condemnation of Fidel Castro
has become a somewhat right-wing
In general, the criticism of Cuban
revolution in Argentina indeed does
come from figures or groups who
once held an indulgent position
towards the last military dictator-
ship and even collaborated with it.
In other Latin American countries,
the situation is the same. And if we
consider the progressive sectors that
somehow yearn for the “ideals of the
revolution,” the global position on
Cuba becomes neutralized.
One may find it hard to believe, but
in Argentina, many prefer not to con-
demn a dictatorship like Castro`s sim-
ply because its main critics are unpre-
sentable figures. And precisely because
it is the complicity between the regime
of Fidel Castro and the supporters of
the Argentinean military regime what
makes both sides feel uncomfortable,
the defenders of human rights should
be encouraged to stand up, for we are
facing a very important chapter of jus-
tice, history and its rectification.
If changes occur in Cuba, what can
Latin-American countries offer to aid
Cuba’s transition? What lessons are
applicable? What mistakes should
be avoided?
that the Interantional Committee for
Democracy in Cuba (ICDC) continues
with its dialogue in the Americas, as
described in a first hand account by
Jan Ruml (Czech Republic).
People in Need and the International Julio Andrés Borges (Venezuela)
Committee for Democracy in Cuba analyzes today’s most pressing issue.
(ICDC) has been trying to tackle He proves in detail how Hugo Chávez
these questions in the past years’ is sponsoring the decaying Cuban
debates between European politicians economy in exchange for thousands of
and former dissidents and their Cuban experts. In another economic
counterparts in Americas. Although paper, Leszek Balcerowicz (Poland)
they come from different backgrounds, complements Borges’ article by
their conclusions are surprisingly calculating the costs of totalitarism
similar: a transition to democracy and benefits of transition in Central
needs a great deal of courage by and Easter Europe.
local leaders and generous offer of
international support.
The ICDC and European NGOs recently
put forward many activities. We
Various distinguished authors offer you only a small part of the
contributed their opinions to this outcomes, including the policy paper
debate. Gabriel C. Salvia (Argentina), from the April conference in Berlin
Cristián Castaño Contreras (Mexico) and an appeal to support the unity
and Claudio Paolillo (Uruguay) of Cuban opposition.
explain that the relation between
Cuba and the countries of Latin
America is always ambiguous. It has
become a myth, a taboo, a symbol in Nikola Hořejš
partisan debates. Therefore anything [email protected]
“can trigger an overnight change in
foreign policy towards Cuba” writes  The International Committee for Democracy
Hernán Alberro (Argentina). Jaime in Cuba (ICDC) was founded in September
Trobo (Uruguay) describes what steps 2003 by Václav Havel and other prominent
would facilitate this change.
international statesmen and intellectuals
to assist those struggling for democracy in
Rodolfo Seguel (Chile), a union leader
who peacefully fought Pinochet and
other dictators, describes his visit to
the real Cuba and the key lessons
from the Chilean experience. Cubans
might look more towards Europe and
North America for inspiration, writes
Lucas Garve (Cuba), as the region has a
troubled past. However, there are some
exceptions, and Chile is most likely the
poster child, sums up Fredo Arías King
(Mexico). It is therefore important
Cuba. Its secretariat is provided by People in
Need, a Czech human rights and development
non-profit organization. For more information
please refer to and .
ly criticize the violation of human
rights in Cuba, despite the fact that
this issue should actually be in the
focus of their attention. Or, to put it
differently, who else has the moral
authority to condemn the violation of
human rights if not those who once
suffered in the same way?Some evidence of the complicity
between the Communist Party of
Argentina and the military dictator-
ship may be found in a text recent-
ly published by a former Commu-
nist leader. In one of the documents
included in the text we read some-
thing like this: “We are sorry for
having to advert that by putting
forward hypocritical arguments con-
cerning the violation of human
rights, the Carter government, which
has attributed the Supreme Court
the right to judge the rest of the
countries in the world, has interfered
in our domestic affairs.”
Be that as it may, in today`s Argen-
tina, more and more convinced sup-
porters of the defence of human
rights are adopting an openly critical
position on the dictatorship of Fidel
Castro. At the same time, more and
more of them are condemning both
the embargo imposed by the United
States and the situation of the pris-
oners in Guantánamo, the American
military. These attitudes coincide
with those of the incipient stream of
liberal democrats who criticize the
role played by the alleged liberals
during the military dictatorship, the
support of the pro-market establish-
ment to the government of the Per-
onist president Carlos Menem (includ-
ing the constitutional amendment
allowing presidential re-election) and
the conservative right-wing positions
on civil liberties.
Therefore, it is nothing strange that
both social democrats and liberal dem-
ocrats alike admire the governments of
conciliation in Chile. But unfortunately,
in Argentina, as well as in the rest of
Latin America, these cases are an excep-
tion rather than the rule.
of Carlos Menem, Eduardo Duhalde
and Néstor Kirchner, human rights
in Cuba are obviously politicized for
the purposes of domestic affairs. In
1990, with Menem as president and
Domingo Cavallo as foreign secretary,
Argentina refrained from condemn-
ing Cuba in Geneva to later damn
the island for its policy of “carnal
relationship” with the United States.
The worst, however, was to occur
with the President Eduardo Duhalde.
When Cuba was beaten by a strong
One may find it hard to
believe, but in Argentina,
many prefer not to
condemn a dictatorship
like Castro`s simply
because its main critics
are unpresentable
figures. And it is the
complicity between the
regime of Fidel Castro
and the supporters of
the Argentinean military
regime that makes both
sides feel uncomfortable.
wave of repression and three people
were shot dead, Argentina changed
its condemning vote for one of
The Kirchner administration can be
divided in the ante-Molina and post-
Molina period and now that the cur-
An Internal Issue
rent government of Argentina has
On the other hand, there are also cas- seen the Castrist block concerning
es that are quite different. In some the condemnation in Geneva of the
governments, for instance those military for the violation of human
rights, the relationship between
Argentina and Cuba will probably be
much colder.
Despite the fact that nowadays this
may not sound politically correct, one
has to recognize that in recent years,
the short government of Fernando de
la Rúa maintained the firmest posi-
tion on the Cuban dictatorship, and
paid a huge cost for it within his alli-
ance coalition.
There are many ways in which
Argentina can contribute to the
transition in Cuba. Argentina may
help by searching for truth, justice,
memory and reconciliation, and may
seek for establishment of a vigor-
ous civil society on the island. With
the end of every dictatorship, many
truths are revealed and in this case,
too, these truths may lead to a mea
culpa of many people in Argentina.
And the truest thing of all is that
the political opening of Cuba will
actually help consolidate democracy
in Latin America.
Gabriel C. Salvia is the President of
the Centre for Opening and Development of
Latin America (CADAL)
1     The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo are a group
of women whose children and grandchildren were
“disappeared” in Argentina. Since its foundation in
1977, it has been searching for over 200 “disap-
peared” children, some born in clandestine deten-
tion centers during the captivity of their mothers
or “disappeared” with their parents after being tak-
en into custody by members of the police or secu-
rity forces.
2    The Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) is a
non-governmental organization founded in 1979 to
foster and protect human rights and to strength-
en the democratic system and the state of law in

Relations between
Venezuela and Cuba
Julio Borges
Presented at the ICDC conference in Berlin, April 2007
OF hugo chávez to cuba
AND venezuela services received in 2001. As a result
of this amendment, Venezuela had to
cancel 10 million US dollars.
We believe that all the agreements
that Venezuela concluded with other
countries to make donations, grant
loans or carry out financial or other
investments (e.g. service) without any
form of repayment or benefit for the
republic are “gifts.” The Presidents of Venezuela and Cuba,
Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro respec-
tively, signed the Integral Coopera-
tion Accord (Acuerdo de Cooperación
Integral) on 30 October, 2000. Both
governments agreed to create coop-
eration programs and projects whose
implementation involves the partici-
pation of public and private institu-
tions in both countries, their univer-
sities and non-governmental organi-
zations. According to the agreement,
Cuba will provide services and tech-
nologies to support the economic
and social development program in
Venezuela. The cooperation programs
will be defined each year and they
will include detailed information on
the monetary amount, specifications,
regulations and forms in which they
are to be provided. The goods and
services will be paid for by Vene-
zuela according to the world price
of oil and its derivatives (exchange
of oil for technological and sport
support). Although the exchange program was
suspended, the Caracas Energy Agree-
ment (Acuerdo Energético de Caracas),
by which Venezuela committed to sell
53,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba
under special financing conditions,
continued to be properly fulfilled and
what is more, the amount destined to
Cuba was raised to 92,000 barrels a
day in 2004.
Venezuela has committed to provid-
ing Cuba with goods and services that
involve technical assistance and sup-
port given by public and private enti-
ties and to supplying to Cuba crude
oil and oil derivatives in the amount
of 53,000 barrels a day, which was
later raised to 92,000 barrels a day.
Before March 2007 (the date of the
The validity of this contract is five
last update), the government of Hugo
years and it can be extended upon the
Chávez had spent almost 28 billion
mutual agreement of both countries.
US dollars on foreign aid directed to
The oil debt is divided in two parts:
more than 30 countries. Cuba received
a short-term debt in hands of PDVSA
7,573,613,000 US dollars; thanks to This part of the agreement was amend- and a 15-year long long-term debt
this, it ranks the first among the coun- ed in August 2001 upon the request with a 2 % interest rate endorsed by
tries with the largest donations and/ of the Cuban government. From this the corporation to the republic as
or benefits from the government of date on, Venezuela started to suspend soon as it receives the promissory
Hugo Chávez.
the payments for technical and sports notes guaranteeing the debt. For each
There are a number of considerations
that are taken into account when
the gifts are counted, but these are
mostly based on announcements
made by the President Hugo Chávez,
or, if there are none, announcements
of high-ranking government officials.
They are based on ideas reflected in
plans and programs of various min-
isterial portfolios and/or organiza-
tions (such as PDVSA, which issues
reports on some investments or pro-
grams abroad).consignment, Banco Nacional de Cuba
issues 15 promissory notes that have a
two year grace period and are payable
annually apart from the third year.
However, President Hugo Chávez and
other governmental representatives
have asserted many times that Cuba’s
payments to Venezuela take the form
of medical, sport and educational assist-
ance (exchange). Venezuela is neverthe-
less obliged to pay for the services pro-
vided by such advisors. “The support
provided to us by Cuba in healthcare is
endless and it cannot be measured in
the price of one barrel of oil,” said Rafael
Ramírez, Minister (08/02/2007).
Sugar Agro-industry
tion Office of Venezuela placed no
responsibility on them, even when
they were designated by the commu-
nity as those who have committed
Cuba agreed to provide training to
hotel management personnel and oth-
er staff employed in tourism, for basic
and middle levels with training in the
promotion and marketing of tourist
services and in quality control related
to such services. Cuba has also offered
to participate in the establishment of
a binational hotel/school in Venezuela
and to provide support in promoting
and marketing tourist destinations
and services.
In March 2007, Venezuela and Cuba
agreed to extend the binational agree-
ment (Convenio Integral Binacional)
in this field by embarking on two
projects: one focusing on the develop-
ment of tourism in the most impor-
tant coastal areas and the other aim-
Cuba has offered a technical support
and expertise to Venezuela with the
aim of contributing to the improve-
ment, modernization and develop-
ment of the system of agro-industrial
production of sugar and its deriva-
tives. In this regard, Cuba has prom-
ised to participate in the construction
of three sugar plants, namely in Bari-
nas (with the capacity of 7,000 tons),
Guárico (2,500 tons) and Apure (1,200
tons). Cuba has also agreed to organ-
ize postgraduate and training courses
for experts in agro-industry and its
The result of this contract was disas-
trous since only one of the three sugar
plants that were to be built and were
expected to be working by now has
been completely finished. Still, it does
not produce the expected amount of
sugar. The one finished plant is Com-
plejo Agroindustrial Ezequiel Zamora
in Barinas, whose construction cost
the exchequer as much as 3.32 billion
Bolivars. A group of Venezuelan mili-
tary officers and civilians were accused
of fraud along with one Cuban expert;
they were immediately driven out of
the country and the General Prosecu-
ing at providing trainings to com-
munities and service providers. The
agreement on tourism is worth 7.5
billion; its first phase will begin in ten
months and requires an investment of
3.5 billion Bolivars.
Agriculture and Food
Technical support projects for the
production of various crops for
human consumption include: vegeta-
bles and plants grown using organo-
ponic farming; projects and technical
support for draining and irrigation
systems; construction of factories
for the production of organic ferti-
lizers; technical assistance in estab-
lishing medical production; technical
assistance in developing the Special
Program for Food Security (Progra-
ma Especial de Seguridad Alimen-
taria – PESA) under the auspices of
the FAO; promotion of agrarian and
cattle cooperatives; postgraduate
courses in Cuba specializing in for-
estry, agriculture, pig breeding and
other fields; and technical support in
citrus production.
PESA Project
Even when the general project count-
ed with cultivating 1,000 hectares in
Caracas, only two pilot projects for
organoponic farming were devel-
oped in the city of Caracas: Bolívar
I and Bolívar II. They were a total
failure. Although Bolívar II is still
active, the vegetables and plants it
yields are not put on market. The
most successful Venezuelan experi-
ence in this respect was in the state
of Cojedes, where it was possible to
grow several of these crops. As for
micro-gardens (the system of grow-
ing plants in boxes devised for fami-
lies living in cities), they had a very
low impact on urban population. The
total investment in the project: was
885,000 US dollars.
In July 2006, Elías Jaua, Minister
of Agriculture and Land, announced
that 4,000 Cuban experts would
come to Venezuela to assist local
farmers with the aim of reducing
the costs of agricultural production;
2,000 of them have already come to
The Sale of Products
Cuba has committed to sell to Vene-
zuela generic drugs, vaccinations, pes-
ticides and medical equipment. Of the
106 generic drugs (medicine) that are
imported from Cuba, 12 products are
of dubious quality and, in spite of the
fact that competent authorities have
not approved their administration,
they are distributed to the public by
Misión Barrio Adentro.
On 17 September 2001, the first
batch of Cuban medicine and equip-
ment worth 20,681,175 US dollars
was delivered to Venezuela. These
products were severely criticized by
the Venezuelan Medical Federation
and by the Venezuelan Network of
Scientific Medical Societies, which
claimed that a great part of this
equipment was obsolete and rather
basic from the technological point
of view. The National Sanitary Insti-
tute (an authority responsible for
approving all medicine used in the
country) had not approved the medi-
caments, some of which were obvi-
ously more expensive than similar
products offered by other suppliers.
The exact amount of medicine that
came to Venezuela from Cuba is not
known at the moment, neither is the
total investment that has been made
in this respect.
Cuba has offered its technical assist-
ance in carrying out projects and
works related to the development of
the national railway system.
Cuba has committed to provide pro-
fessional support focusing on the fol-
lowing fields: optimization of educa-
tion and training of teachers for pre-
school, special, primary, secondary and
technical-vocational education and
improvement of the education system
at these levels and types of schools;
consolidation of Bolivarian Schools
(Escuelas Bolivarianas); and method-
ologies for literacy teaching of indi-
viduals, groups or through mass com-
As a result of this agreement, approx-
imately 400 Cuban advisors are cur-
rently staying in the country. They are
incorporated in different educational
missions carried out by the Venezue-
lan government.
In regards to the conditions of the
“Bolivarian Schools” where the inter-
vention of Cuban professionals was
really significant, the Ministry of Edu-
cation and Sport carried out an evalua-
tion through Sinea – Sistema Nacional
de Medición y Evaluación del Aprendi-
zaje (National System for Measure-
ment and Evaluation of Learning)
in 2003. It was the only evaluation
applied to the program of Bolivarian
schools (created in 1999) and the first
one that the national education sys-
tem was subjected to by the govern-
ment. Its results were never published.
They reveal that the main objective of
the project – to improve the quality of
education – has not been achieved.
It is a paradox that the program
of Bolivarian Schools, which was cre-
ated to improve quality, has the low-
est scores in the evaluation. An aca-
demic proposal cannot consist only
of numbers related to the amount
of investment and the assumed
increase in the number of enrolled
students. The Bolivarian Schools,
“whose levels can be worse than
those of 2003,” reflect shortcomings
which result from a diversion of the
project. The project started with 500
schools. Their whole staff converted
to Bolivarian overnight, destroying
all educational process that used to
be divided in stages, notwithstand-
ing the fact that it used to have
political connotations.
They are sending up to 3,000 manag-
ers, other professionals and experts
in various sport disciplines and phys-
ical education, with the aim to sup-
port Venezuela in this field and to
contribute to its development. The
possibility of training Venezuelan
managers, physical education teach-
ers and other sport professionals
and experts in Cuba was also con-
Health Care Services and Staff
Training in Cuba
Cuba has committed to offer post-
graduate studies in General Medicine;
to educate healthcare personnel and
other healthcare specialists through
intensive courses to contribute to the
improvement of healthcare services
and extending the scope of health-
care services in isolated areas of Ven-
ezuela; treatment of addictions in
Cuban therapeutic institutions; spe-
cialized medical check-ups and poten-
tial therapeutic treatments of Vene-
zuelan oil workers and experts; and
other services.
In June 2006, there were 26,600
Cuban doctors in Venezuela (Ricardo
Lage, Cuban Vice-President), whom
the Venezuelan government not only
provided with accommodation and
maintenance, but also paid them a
salary of between 200 and 400 US
From the 26,600 doctors in 2006
only 1,400 provided their curricula
and accreditations to the Venezuelan
College of Doctors.
Only 1,794 Venezuelan doctors were
involved in the Misión Barrio Adentro.
The President of the College of Doctors
justified the number by saying it is an
“issue of education.”
In March 2007, there were 1,420
Cuban tutors certified at the high-
est level in General Comprehensive
Medicine who were in charge of
training of 1,023 Venezuelan gener-
al practitioners (recently graduated,
in only two and a half years). Even
though Dr. Fernando Biando (Cole-
gio de Médicos del Distrito Metro-
politano de Caracas) assured us in
2006 that these physicians would
gradually substitute the Cuban doc-
tors, in 2007 he said: “there are no
plans to substitute them for now
since general practitioners will fill
vacant positions in Venezuelan pri-
mary health care.”
In April 2007, the Latin American
School of Medical Sciences (ELAM)
was opened in Venezuela where
the first cohort of 631 Latin Ameri-
Some of these doctors
have reported that they
were mistreated by their
Cuban supervisors who
forbade them to go out
of their flats after 5 pm
and forced them to
falsify medical histories
in order to exaggerate
the statistical data.
can students including 100 Cubans
is going to study. The aim of this
project is to educate 200,000 gener-
al practitioners from Latin America
and the Caribbean in ten years. The
amount that the country is going
to invest in the project in order
to fulfil its objective is not known
yet, but the costs of purchasing the
buildings have so far reached 18
billion Bolivars. What is more, the
students will receive free education,
learning material, accommodation,
food and a maintenance bonus after
they gain the degree.
On 30 November, 2000, the first
flight from Venezuela to Cuba was dis-
patched within the Program of Treat-
ment of Venezuelan Patients in Cuba.
14,539 patients and 11,675 compan-
ions have been attended so far. Nev-
ertheless, a great part of the treat-
ments that these patients undergo
costs Venezuela more than it would
cost if these patients were treated in
the country.
The organization Solidaridad Sin
Fronteras – SSF (Solidarity with-
out Borders) claims that about 500
Cuban doctors from Misión Barrio
Adentro have fled from Venezuela.
Some of these doctors have report-
ed that, among other things, they
were mistreated by their Cuban
supervisors who forbade them to
go out of their flats after 5 pm and
forced them to falsify medical his-
tories in order to exaggerate the
statistical data; some doctors were
treated as prisoners for trying to
escape; treatment was provided
to Colombian guerrilla fighters
wounded along the frontier; there
were 10,000 Cuban security agents,
policemen and soldiers appointed to
the mission to provide protection
and track Cuban doctors who are
in the country.
The joint declaration on the ALBA
was signed by the President Hugo
Chávez and his Cuban counterpart in
the city of La Habana, Cuba, on 14
December 2004.
The Following Facts are The Most
• In March 2007, only 307 CDIs, 406
SRIs and 11 CATs in the whole
country had started to operate.
• Education of 40,000 doctors and
5,000 experts in medical technolo-

for the possibilities put forward
in the agreement? The text of the
agreement is very general and the
agreement is not limited to provid-
ing support while carrying out the
investigation but allows interven-
tions when the crimes in question
are not considered crimes according
to the legislation of one of the two
Cuba presently trades with approxi-
mately 170 countries around the
world. Cuban exports depend to a
great extent on its traditional prod-
ucts. Only six of them (sugar, nickel,
tobacco, seafood, coffee and rum)
form about 80  % of its exports.
On the other hand, 75 % of the trade
exchange is formed by imports,
whose main part is fuel and oil, food,
machines and chemical equipment
and products.
Latin America and the Caribbean
have the leading position, forming
73  % of the total exchange (which
was even exceeded in 2005). From
the countries in this area it is the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezue-
la that has again started to rank
number one among the Cuban trade
partners as a result of the various
agreements signed by both countries
in adherence to the ALBA principles.
80  % of the trade balance between
the two countries is formed with
Cuban purchases of Venezuelan
goods and services. It is expected
that for 2007, the government of
Venezuela hopes to triple the exports
of Venezuelan products and services
to Cuba. Goods and services include
mainly construction materials, con-
fectionery, shoes, textiles and chem-
ical products plus the much valued
90,000 barrels of oil a day.
gies in Venezuela within Programa
in China received an order from
Barrio Adentro II.
Venezuela to produce bulbs worth
• 100,000 surgical interventions to
100 million dollars. They were sent
Venezuelan patients in 2005. Until
directly to Cuba to make sure that
August 2005, only 50,000 Vene-
the promise of the President Hugo
zuelans had received treatment in
Chávez to “illuminate the island as
this respect while in the Compro-
a lighthouse, as a lighthouse that
miso Sandino, an agreement that
equals Fidel, a lighthouse that has
the countries signed in August
illuminated me” is fulfilled. The
2005, 315,000 Latin Americans
amount of purchased bulbs was
had attended both Venezuelan and
much higher than needed and the
Cuban ophthalmologic centres.
surplus was then sold, by Cuba, to
• Education in Cuba was provided to
other Caribbean islands and even to
10,000 bachelors who completed
our country.
Misión Ribas with a specialization • This is the Energy Mission, an
in Medicine and Nursing.
enormous expenditure drawn from
• The provision of health care to Ven- our budget. What is more, a new
ezuelan patients in Cuba.
purchase was made worth 150 mil-
lion dollars was paid to Vietnam.
The consignment was sent to Cuba
and it is equivalent to a 5 – 6 years’
consumption of bulbs in Venezuela.
Energy Revolution Mission
The products that were sent to Ven-
In November 2006, the Energy Rev- ezuela are overpriced.
olution Mission was started within
It is hard to establish the exact
the ALBA. Its first stage involved number of Cubans in Venezuela
the substitution of 52 million light due to the lack of reliable sources
bulbs; the final step was the instal- of information. Conclusions form
lation of devices for the generation our research estimate that 34,767
of 1000 MW.
Cubans have thus far been operating
Out of the 2,791 brigadiers who in Venezuela. Venezuela provides the
provided support to this mission majority of them housing and regu-
in its first stage, 1,193 were Cuban lar salary, which in some cases is up
“social workers” and 1,598 were Ven- to 400 US dollars.
ezuelans. When the mission was in
progress, they received a mainte- III. OTHER INTERESTING AGREEMENTS
nance bonus and Venezuela saw to it
that they were given accommodation An Agreement on Help in Penal
during their stay.
In some of the country’s states, a This agreement was signed by the
series of frauds occurred in connec- government of Venezuela and Cuba
tion with this bulb mission. Light and published in the Official Gazette
bulbs were sometimes sold to com- on 22 December 2004.
munities or companies. What is
The danger lies in the pronounced
more, Cuban “social workers” left difference between the Cuban and
on 13 April 2007, without meeting the Venezuelan penal systems – for
the objective to substitute 52 mil- example, the use of death penalty in
lion bulbs.
Cuba and its abolition in Venezuela.
But the Description of the Most Therefore, are there any guarantees
Serious Fact is Still to Follow.
for Venezuelans interrogated in Cuba
• One of the most important factories for crimes; punished or deprived of
manufacturing energy-saving bulbs liberty? Are there any guaranteesAlthough the trade relations
between Venezuela and Cuba are
now at their peak, the situation
was different in past. In 1998 and
before, the average trade exchange
between these two countries was
450 million US dollars, of which
the exports from Cuba to Venezue-
la hardly reached around one mil-
lion dollars.
This situation changed after Hugo
Chávez was elected President of
Venezuela. He cultivates a friendly
and very close relationship with his
Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro. The
Integral Cooperation Accord signed
in October 2000 sealed the begin-
ning of mutual trade exchange that
is still on the increase. From 2000 to
2006 it grew from 902 million dol-
lars to 2.64 million dollars, which
is a 190  % increase when compared
to 2000 and a 480 % increase when
compared to the period before Hugo
Chávez was elected President.
This research has been conducted by
Primero Justicia Party (Justice First)
and presented by Julio Borges at the
ICDC conference in Berlin, April 2007.
For an unabriged version please refer
Julio Andrés Borges , a Venezuelan lawyer,
founded the civil organization Primero Justicia
in 1992. It is now one of the biggest opposition
parties in Venezuela. He was the party’s candidate
for president but stepped down from elections for
the benefit of the opposition’s common candidate.
The Transitional Menu
Fredo Arías-King
in mind the Cuban geographic area
and its natural, cultural and linguistic
affinity, some reformers will be surely
more inclined to look for inspiration
The current Cuban economic and polit- in Latin America.
ical model seems to be lacking digni-
ty. For years now, no respect has been Unlike Eastern Europe, there are
shown by both common people and unfortunately no model countries in
the elite, the latter using repression Latin America (with the exception
rather than ideology to delay the inev- of Chile), although various aspects
itable. One day when Cuban reform- of reforms carried out in these coun-
ers (both those living in the country tries – carefully picked as in a salad
and those from abroad) start to think bar – can prove useful in Cuban dem-
of foreign models for the changes ocratic future.
ahead of Cuba, where will they turn
to? Since the Cuban regime is a clas- Let’s look at the menu of what we
sic example of a Soviet-type social- have to choose from.
ist dictatorship, it would be logical
to study the processes of change in Brazil has demonstrated that by open-
Eastern Europe (some of them being ing the country to foreign investors,
highly successful). However, keeping the economy can experience periods
Which Path Can Cuba
Choose from the Latin
American Transitions?
of advanced growth and industriali-
zation. In the 1950s, when traditional
political models were just the opposite,
the democratically elected president
Juscelino Kubitschek had a political
vision of Brazil’s opening to the world
and succeeded in putting the country
on the industrial map. After that, Bra-
zil was lead by several dictatorial and
corrupt governments until Fernando
Henrique Cardoso managed to trans-
form the irresponsible populist left
wing to a modern party and proved
that inflation control measures main-
ly benefit the working and the middle
class. However, it did not prevent an
overt ally of Cuban dictatorship to be
elected the next president (although
the new president could not disman-
tle the positive aspects of the previ-
ous reforms).10
and seclusion. It is instructive to look
at the parallel with Cuban “golden
age” of constitutionality and prosper-
ity followed by a collapse caused by
Argentina has lived a history of eco- the messianic “easy route.”
nomic and political ups and downs
that can show important lessons to Peru has proven wrong the popular
be learned. The main lesson is that belief that democratic regimes cannot
a country whose economy is pru- take harsh measures if it is necessary
dently managed using neo-classical to reform a country governed by spe-
theory models and whose politics is cial interests that stand in the way of
governed by constitutionality and progress. Some of the greatest deeds
modesty can be transformed back of Alberto Fujimori were performed
to the world power it used to be in when he governed the country as the
the 1920s. It was the country’s devi- president elect, assisted by a sufficient-
ation from constitutionality during ly healthy socio-political movement
and immediately after the presiden- (Cambio 90) – before his coup, before
cy of Hipólito Yrigoyen that made Vladimiro Montesinos and before he
Argentina suffer irreversible decline. went mad. His economic reforms (pri-
High financial deficits, an excessively vatizations, opening the market and
strong role of the state, bureaucracy, decentralization) brought triumph and
centralism, populism, Peronism and his successor Alejandro Toledo did not
lack of monetary, fiscal and commer- revoke them. However, what the pub-
cial coherence as well as insufficient licly elected Toledo rejected was the
homogeneity of proprietary rights collaborator networks created during
and public politics have condemned Fujimori’s political era. He purged the
Argentina to several decades of decay army and the legal system, revealed
dictatorship and that civil society
can be mobilized to put an end to a
one-party dictatorship.
Mexico is living proof of how a
country with an advantageous geo-
graphic location, natural resources
and markets open to the world can
be incompetently administered by a
single party. The “democrats” were
bought off and controlled by a group
of oligarchs who destroyed value
while becoming some of the richest
people in the world through monop-
oly concessions. It is the excessively
strong role of the state and a hos-
tile attitude towards entrepreneur-
ship that can explain why half of
the people live below the poverty
line and why there is a constant
flow of people leaving the country.
One of the few positive things that
Cuba can learn from Mexico is that,
despite its importance, Mexico does
not aspire to be an ambitious and
self-destructive geopolitical role and
that the commercial opening of the
country has saved the country from
becoming even poorer. What Cubans
can also learn from Mexico is that
democracy brings better results thanwhich legislators were bribed by Mon-
tesinos and maintained pressure. The
country has seen a relatively high rate
of growth sustaining its constitution-
al regime.
more than one country in the region.
When this bubble bursts, it will likely
be similar to the situation in Mexi-
co in 1982. By then the damage will
have spread to places further behind
the frontier because it sponsors anti-
The situation in Colombia should constitutional and antidemocratic ele-
encourage the regional democratic ments in the whole region. The reason
right wing since it has shown that a for this is that the country has not
political power that promises to act seen anything much better before – if
firmly against guerillas and drug traf- we consider the case Mexico and its
ficking, responsibly manages thecono- one-party dictatorship, we could say
my and is a United States ally, can not that Venezuela has been governed by
only be successful in elections but can a kind of two-headed PRI (Mexican
also be highly popular. Colombian presi- Institutional Revolutionary Party):
dent Álvaro Uribe has confirmed the
truth of the words of the first Czecho-
slovakian President Tomáš Masaryk by
saying: “The fact that a democratic
regime is democratic does not mean
that it is toothless.” People are often
disappointed with democratic regimes
in Latin America due to the incompe-
tence of a particular democratic leader
rather than due to democracy itself.
Uribe sets a good example by showing
that a democratic regime has all the
tools necessary to reorganize the coun-
try and take tough measures, which
will be in the end welcomed by com-
mon people: “Firm hand, big heart.”
two parties share power, oil riches
Chile is one of the group’s success and the privileges. The elites failed to
stories. However, its success is sur- act and did not respond to the needs
rounded by myths that can prove to of the country. In such conditions, a
be counterproductive. Although Chile leader who would promise to put an
has tripled its actual wealth in the last end to all of this could count on gen-
three decades, the success cannot be uine popular support. Venezuela has
attributed to Augusto Pinochet but to proved that holding elections is not
a radical liberal economic model with a sufficient means of guaranteeing
an outstanding public policy. What democracy and that election can bury
remains unknown regarding this suc- a democratic regime if it benefits only
cess is that in the last 17 years Chil- the governing elites.
ean democratic governments managed
to lower the poverty line from some Central America has also seen politi-
40 % to the current 12 %, without the cal practices, for better and for worse.
need to change the “neo-liberal” mod- In brief, El Salvador is an example of
el which would not be possible if the how a country can resist guerillas
regime of Pinochet continued.
when protected from abroad, success-
fully recover from the traumas of a
Venezuela is implementing an eco- near civil war and moreover adopt
nomic policy that has already ruined profound economical reforms, which
Chile is one of the group’s
success stories. In the
last 17 years Chilean
democratic governments
managed to lower the
poverty line from some
40 % to the current 12  %
are appreciated by the population.
The party that introduced them has
been reelected several times with the
neo-communist opposition unable to
conquer the power in elections.
Counter to this example is Nicaragua,
where the transition was deeply inef-
fective. The residual effects from Dan-
iel Ortega’s regime were not purged
from the government after his electoral
defeat in 1990, and for this reason (and
due to the usual lack of unity in the
opposition) they were able to return
to power recently. Nicaragua’s model is
the most appropriate for the Cubans:
if, during their transition, they do the
same as what Violeta Chamorro did,
they could face a return of the com-
munists in a few years.
All things considered, Latin America
is – after Africa – the region with the
lowest level of economic dynamism in
the world and suffers from high rates
of poverty and marginalization, recent
instances of democratic standards
infringement, geopolitical confusion
and an identity crisis. The majority of
its leaders are incompetent, illegitimate
or corrupt. More often, they are a com-
bination of all three. However, great
leaders do appear from time to time.
Fredo Arias-King  is the founder of the academic
quad-monthly magazine “Demokratizatsiya:
The Journal of the Post-Soviet Democratization”
published since 1992 in Washington. Between
March 1999 and July 2000 he was a foreign affairs
counselor for the Mexican party National Action
Party (PAN). He also worked as a counselor of the
democratic forces in Moldavia, Russia, Peru, Cuba,
Belarus and the Ukraine. He writes about transitions
to democracy and he has published two books – the
second one, “Transitions: Eastern European Experience”
was published by CADAL in Buenos Aires in 2005.12
A trip to The Real Cuba
and Four Lessons
from Chile
Rodolfo Samuel Seguel Molina
or many years I wanted to visit
Cuba. I was actually invited on
several occasions, even by Fidel Cas-
tro himself. But I was always reluc-
tant to go there, since I did not want
to be accused of being a “puppet” of
the communists. We were fighting
Pinchot’s dictatorship and I did not
want anyone to think that we were lis-
tening to someone’s orders. What we
were motivated by was the need to be
free and to put an end to the fear of
death and persecution that our people
were suffering from.
under a dictatorship which terrifies
them and makes them numb, para-
lysed and subjugated, and at this
moment, they are left with no pos-
sibility of getting free. After almost
50 years, the dictatorial opprobri-
um is embedded in practically all
generations and people accept the
regime – either because they are
afraid or because they do not know
what democracy means. However, life
should not be like this and we should
do something for them. It is as if we
were doing it for ourselves, because
they are our brothers and sisters and
Now, I am 53 and I live in a wonder- we have to help them the same way
ful democratic country where there as we were once helped. This is an
is respect for human rights and liber- inevitable mission of any advocate of
ties. In today’s Chile you are allowed democratic principles.
to have your own opinion, make
choices, elect your politicians, speak, Is there any politician – president,
meet with other people or travel, and prime minister, senator, member of
these freedoms may not be withheld parliament, councillor or other – who
from you.
would not remember the ordeal pro-
voked by criminals such as Napoleon,
In May 2007 I accepted the invita- Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet,
tion to Cuba and for the first time in Ferdinando Marcos, Gadafi, Stalin, Idi
my life I travelled to the island to see Amin or Hussein who all used weap-
what it was like. I wished to know the ons to seize power and to satisfy their
Cuba of common people, not the Cuba nefarious instincts, and who subjugat-
of a tourist who comes for his holiday ed their people, presenting themselves
to relax or who thinks that the island as the “Great Saviours” of humanity?
is a brothel for satisfying his primary
Dear friends, to help Cuba we have to
be brave and we always have to bear
I arrived and the reality I met exceed- in mind that Fidel Castro is a dictator
ed my imagination. Cuban people live and that Cuban people live under a
dictatorship. To help our brothers and
sisters we need to fight very hard, and
that is why I would like to remember
how we started our campaign against
the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet
in Chile:
1. There were always politicians exiled
abroad who kept on denouncing
throughout the world what was hap-
pening in our country, and these poli-
ticians received support from foreign
governments. However, the case of the
Cubans who leave the island for dol-
lar exile is different, as I have not seen
any of them acting. Where are they?
2. In Chile, notwithstanding the polit-
ical party to which we belonged, we
were all united in a common cause,
fighting the dictatorship by peaceful
means, not with weapons. Our sup-
porters were of different philosophies,
ranging from Communists to Christian
Democrats, and our unity made us a
strong rival of the dictatorship. We
cannot see any unity in Cuba though.
The opposition leaders on the island
lack support, especially Oswaldo Payá
and the Varela Project. And the brave
women who still continue their Sun-
day marches, every week at eleven
o’clock after the morning mass, also
deserve help.
3. All the workers from around Chile
joined forces and were followed by
Funiversity students, by Women for
Life and by the very poor. We decid-
ed to create the Civic Assembly and
the politicians formed the Democratic
Alliance. The Catholic Church played
a key role; later, Protestant Churches
did too. Undoubtedly, a great deal of
work must be done to achieve this
and great dedication is needed. It is
also very important to cooperate with
democrats from other countries of the
world. If European and US politicians
pledge to cooperate, sooner or later we
will see the people of Cuba well organ-
ized, leading their peaceful campaign
against Castro’s dictatorship.
We have to grasp the whole situation
once and for all. Even if Castro dies,
Cuban people will not free themselves
from the dictatorship without our help.
At this moment, they are not united
and they lack political and social sup-
port from democratic countries. We are
free citizens and advocates of demo-
cratic principles and it is us, who must
help Cuba.
the people in Cuba. How can it be that
Fidel Castro walks around the world
as a “Great Revolutionist” and no one,
except honourable exceptions, tells
him anything? How can it be that he
is received as a statesman when he
always wears his olive green uniform
stained with blood, famine, prostitu-
tion and oppression?
Let us help Cuba to be free like Chile
and Europe. If my brothers and sisters
are free, I too will feel freer. And if
they are tied, I too will feel tied.
Rodolfo Samuel Seguel Molina is a Chilean
trade union leader who played a major role in
opposing the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
I am happy living in Chile, because it is
a free and democratic country and my
nation has everything I was dreaming
about. Nonetheless, this does not free
me from the responsibility I have as
a democrat. I cannot remain reticent
and be blind to the horrors lived by
4. All democratic countries of the
world offered Chile their selfless help
by making resolutions and agree-
ments and by pronouncing official
declarations. We also had financial
help, we received visits from abroad
and were invited to other countries.
I personally met with the Pope John
Paul II and with several presidents,
kings, prime ministers, MPs and
senators. And in the meantime, the
International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions, World Social Forum and
World Confederation of Labour never
failed to provide us support. There-
fore, special political decisions must
be taken, otherwise our friends in
Cuba will not be helped.14
the Martí Plan for
the Reconstruction
of the Republic of Cuba
Luis Alberto Lacalle
Speech at the ICDC Conference in Berlin, April 2007
nce the dictatorship has fallen
and Cuba continues its demo-
cratic journey, an enormous effort
will be necessary in order to trans-
form Cuba to a free and prosperous
als, will act only when asked by legit- The concepts are explained in more
imate representatives of the Cuban detail below:
In this introduction, a special mention
must be made of the phenomenon
of exile. During the last half century,
The “Martí Plan” aims to support the without similar precedent, thousands
process with economic and human of compatriots were separated; new
resources through coordination of generations were born and grew up
activities carried out by international loving and yearning for country they
actors, Cubans who live in the island do not know. Others remained in their
and those who live in “the Pilgrim native land, suffering under tyranny.
All of them are Cubans and all of them
can and should contribute to the recon-
It will be necessary to offer economic struction process. Having in mind this
contributions and technical aid con- aspect, the “Martí Plan” wishes to com-
sisting of the introduction of knowl- bine all the contributions and to con-
edge and business and trade union nect and bring closer together those
experience, which will channel the who were separated for so long.
everyday life of a nation that during
50 years has known neither liberty The PLAN’S SUMMARY
nor justice.
The plan proposes two types of
It is essential to remember and to contributions:
make clear the fact that the Cubans a)    Economic, which comprises financial
are the only ones able to undertake
resources, technological support and
the task. They and their democrat-
commercial opportunities.
ic government will carry out the b)    Human, including creation of lead-
changes; the cooperating actors, be
ership structures (leading officials)
it nations, institutions or individu-
and training opportunities.
Destruction of Cuba’s economic base
created by the tyranny will require
economic recourse and legal and cul-
tural measures that will establish a
modern society.
Reconstruction fund
This is a body of public international
right with limited duration of exist-
ence. It will centralize contributions
from different sources.
The aid will be reciprocal, aiming at
creating private culture and initia-
tive with its rights and duties. Loan
installments and interest rates will
be as generous as possible. However,
the loan shall be properly paid back.
Loan repayments, once offered, will
be used as donations to the education
and public health system.
One part of the fund resources will
be donated to educational and health
institutions that will submit specific
projects. The fund will be lead by a
Oboard of directors made up of impor-
tant people from around the world
and will be managed by a director
with experience in the finance sector.
In the public sector, technical support
will be offered to improve the consti-
tutional and administrative area and
help organize political parties and
trade unions. However, it will be done
The contributions will be free or only after the Cuban government has
onerous, provided by governments, requested it.
public or private entities or indi-
In the private sector, a list of persons
with business experience will be offered
The aim of the support will be to to companies and business organiza-
establish democratic government tions that will have the chance to
in Cuba. Its contributions will be request these people. This activity will
offered to public entities (central be free in terms of personal rewards.
and local government, public per- The assistance will last, at most, as long
sonages of the state) or to private as the “Martí Plan” is valid.
Luis Alberto Lacalle , President of Uruguay from
1990–95 , Senator from 1984 and Vice-President
of the Senate, was instrumental in organizing the
Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) for
the OAS countries. He is an active member of the
Interantional Committee for Democarcy in Cuba.
The duration of the “Martí Plan” will
be limited, announced beforehand
and its end will not be postponed. Its
aim is to help, to create an impulse,
but it can not replace authentic pub-
lic and private action.
Technical Assistance Fund
The introduction of knowledge and
experience in public and private life
represents a central point of the task
that awaits us.
Once it fulfills its duties, the initia-
tive will disappear. If its contribution
helps to create freer, more prosperous
and fair Cuba, its goal will be fully
a Great Opportunity for
Cuba and mexico
Manuel Espino
Speech at the ICDC conference in Berlin, April 2007
leave very soon for a very long time. In
my country, we have a song that says
because you stay, and you go, you go,
you go, and go, but you are still here!
But we still believe he will leave very
soon. Once this happens, we will have
to act in very clever and politically very
responsible way in order to make sure
that the events taking place in Cuba
will be in the interests of the entire
Latin American region.
attention to it; the only thing we are
likely to see is the Castro’s ideological
and political leadership spreading as a
school of thought to the Latin Ameri-
can region. We see that happening in
the case of Venezuela.
Therefore, we have a great opportunity,
but I point out that this depends on us
making the right decisions. In order to
avoid any mistakes, I believe we should
first ratify approaches that have been
Together with these opportunities, there presented here so insistently; the com-
are people in Latin America who want mitment to let the Cubans decide on
to revive the old ideological confronta- their own what they want Cuba to be
tions which caused a lot of damage to like in the near future. I believe it is
the region. The Europeans have a great beneficial for them to know that there
amount of experience with that. The ide- are many of us interested in the resto-
ological confrontations led to wars that ration of an open and democratic Cuban
caused a considerable damage not only system that will fully respect human
to Europe but to all mankind. However, rights.
these days there are many who insist
on confrontations, on reviving this old We have a deep interest in contributing
antagonism that harms humanity. I to the democratic institutions that will
would like mention the specific exam- provide for a system of political parties
ple of Chavez to illustrate what occurs that truly compete for government on
in Latin America nowadays. Chavez is the island, a system that will not be a
New Ideological Confrontations becoming a leading representative of mere simulation of democracy, as the
this attempt to revive the ideological one that exists in Cuba today. It is also
Now, in this time of a change of eras, confrontations in Latin America, evok- important for Cubans to see that we
we should also stress the importance ing, with his activities, a lot of what are willing to promote dialogue as the
of what is soon to happen in Cuba. Fidel Castro was doing for decades. I most effective way to make different
The opportunities in Latin America will also chose to mention Chavez because actors stand in favor of an agreement
mostly depend on the Cuban process of it seems to me we cannot discuss Cuba that will benefit the island.
transformation which is undoubtedly these days without relating it to Chavez.
related to an event that seems to be There is a dangerous symbiosis, a close Do not Europeanize or
quite imminent.
relationship between Fidel and Chavez, Latin Americanize
between the Venezuelan and Cuban gov-
Sometimes I do not believe it anymore; ernment. As for what is going to take Currently there are various projects
we have thought that Castro was to place in Cuba, if we do not pay proper and programs designed to benefit
would only like to point this out
that from the Mexican point of view,
and I dare to say in the Latin American
view as well, because I have the honor
of being the President of the National
Action Party (PAN) – which is the gov-
erning party for the second time in a
row after a very long, hard and pain-
ful experience of state authoritarian-
ism – and also the honor of being the
president of the Christian Democrat
Organization of America. Therefore, in
the Mexican point of view, and I think
in the Latin American as well, we can
see that our Latin American region is
experiencing a crucial moment. The cur-
rent process brought by the change of
eras certainly offers many unforeseen
and surprising opportunities for us to
come out of marginalization and over-
come the institutional weakness that is
present in all Latin America. Through
these processes we will be able to devel-
op into an integrated, modern, politi-
cally stable, socially developed and eco-
nomically competitive region.ence so the Cubans can decide which
experience could be useful and used
for their own nation.
al Action Party of Mexico, and as the
President of the CDOA in Latin America
and the Caribbean, if I were sure I am
not wrong. I also want to point out the
Mexican president committed himself
to support the suffering nations of Lat-
in America, nowadays mainly Cuba and
Venezuela. I would also like to mention
again the commitment of the CDOA
that recently managed to publicly com-
mit the former Mexican President Vice-
nte Fox to get involved in the Cuban
and Venezuelan issues. I would like
to remark that Fox, during his presi-
dency of Mexico, was the only head of
state with different attitude towards
Castro and Chavez, stating clearly his
disapproval of the oppression of their
nations. Vicente Fox has now joined
the CDOA project as well, having one
particular mission – to manage world
support for Cuba and Venezuela and
to bring together Latin American lead-
ers who wish to commit themselves to
this mission.
I also believe it is essential to insist that
the generous efforts of many world
organizations that have been involved
in the Cuban issue and in gathering
financial resources to support vari-
ous projects remain generous and do
not seek rewards when they turn the
projects over to the Cuban people. To
be honest, we, in Latin America like,
for example, to see North American
organizations providing help in differ-
ent Latin American issues, but we do
not much like it when they start asking
for things in exchange. In my opinion
we should not try to North Americanize
or Europeanize or Latin Americanize
the Cuban nation. We have to let Cuba
be Cuba, on its own, with the generous
and altruistic support of various organ-
izations, governments, parties and lead-
ing figures of the world. We have to let
the Cubans decide, absolutely freely, on
what they want to do with their coun- Manuel Espino  is President of the Mexican
try. I would only insist on my personal National Action Party (PAN) and President of the
attitude, as the President of the Nation- Christian Democrat Organization of America.
the Cuban nation. However, some
projects compete among themselves,
and some authors of these projects,
programs and positive proposals
refuse to accept the positive aspects
of other proposals. I believe we, who
are not Cubans, should now immedi-
ately, through a dialogue, encourage
an agreement between the authors
and promoters of different programs.
The Varela Project, for example, is in
my opinion, an extraordinary project
that could be empowered and further
inspired by proposals made by oth-
er programs. Since different visions
with different projects will lead to
different, potentially uncoordinated
actions, the most urgent task is to
coordinate the effort of all actors
involved and to make sure we resist
the temptation to promote our own
successful model as the only recipe
that might lead to success in Cuba
as well. Neither the Polish recipe,
nor the German recipe, nor the rec-
ipe that has been recently success-
ful in Mexico has to be the success-
ful approach for Cuba. We have to be
generous enough to share our experi-18
What are the Next
Steps for the US and
Latin America?
Jaime Trobo
Speech at the ICDC conference in Berlin, April 2007
f Cuba is to be incorporated as a
tolerant and democratic society
into the international community,
its people need help. And the aim to
accompany Cuba on its way to democ-
racy is what we are encouraged by.
Who is the opponent of this great
intention? Undoubtedly it is the dic-
tatorial regime that strictly restricts
the liberties of its citizens. One of the
main tasks of the dictatorship is to
perpetuate itself in power, and that
is why it makes use of an expedient
diplomacy, which has been serving its
purpose for 50 years, and of a mili-
tary and police intelligence that car-
ries out its duty without any preju-
dice or limits. A part of the mission
of these two government authorities
has been to divide the internal oppo-
sition, crush the dissent and split
international public opinion on the
approach towards the present and
the future of Cuba.
asks for support in order to be grant-
ed a permission to travel abroad.
Moreover, the Commission now has
Let me now draw three circles that at its disposal a complete report on
would cover the relations between human rights in Cuba, prepared by
Cuba and the international commu- the Cuban Democratic Directory, and
in spite of all this, it is very difficult
to reach consensus on pointing out
The first circle is a delineation of the responsibility of the government
the relationship with Latin America. and on requesting that the human
This part of the American continent rights be respected. At the last Latin
is deeply indebted to the nation of American Summits, no country came
Cuba because it has been the chief with the topic of Cuba and its failure
supporter of the Cuban dictatorship to comply with its international com-
on the international scene. The left- mitments, for instance with the Viña
wing streams of Latin America have del Mar declaration about governabil-
protected the regime. By its strategy ity and democracy.
of presenting itself as the “victim” of
imperialism, Cuba has gained their The role of Latin America is of great
unconditional support and this sup- importance and therefore it is neces-
port has helped hide its gross and sary to work hard in order to ensure
continued violations of human rights. that its political elite is given objec-
In Latin America, it is very difficult to tive information and becomes more
raise greater awareness and to create engaged in a situation that will change
space for criticism. I have just arrived soon. And if the Latin American com-
I have no doubt that the differences from a meeting of the Commission on mitment is to be enhanced, the infor-
in the common position of Europe on Human Rights of the Latin Ameri- mation provided has to reflect very
this issue are a result of the effective can Parliament in Panama. This Com- effectively the real state of affairs on
actions of Cuban diplomacy and intel- mission has been reported of several the island.
ligence. Otherwise, it would be impos- complaints by Cuban political prison-
sible to explain why the infringement ers or by their family members, and I think that in Latin America there is a
of liberties and the violation of human it has also been submitted a request great deal of work left. The opposition
rights are not firmly condemned.
by the family of Hilda Molina, who and the dissent have to be introduced
Cuba and the International
Iand presented as a democratic option I am quite positive that if the US gov-
calling for liberty and for the introduc- ernment openly expressed its commit-
tion of democracy.
ment to revert Guantánamo back to
Cuban sovereignty, provided there is
The second circle would undoubtedly democracy restored on the island, it
cover the United States, whose relation- could bring about a very important
ship with the Cuban reality can in no and dramatic effect. The fulfilment of
way be denied. I believe that by making an historical request by Cuba would
Latin America be more engaged in the undoubtedly be a great pledge that,
freedom on the island, we could achieve from now on, can be associated with
a certain balance that would somehow freedom, democracy and human rights
minimize the risk of the United States on the island.
solving the future of Cuba on its own.
This is what makes many people con- The third circle, which from my point
cerned and is also what the dictator- of view is also very important, cov-
ship uses very well for its own advan- ers Europe. The cultural proximity, the
tage. The United States, which has space for investment and the inter-
recently reopened its dialogue with est to find its own position in another
some countries in the region, has to country of the region may, too, play
include in its agenda the talks about a decisive role in the request for the
their commitment to democracy in freedom of Cuba. Europe, with its le-
Cuba. Those who are ready to intro- gitimate democracies, should get very
duce the essential issue of transition to actively involved in the restoration of
democracy into their debates with the democracy in Cuba. However, a conflict
Cuban government are Mexico, Brazil, of interests, chiefly economic ones, and
Chile and even Uruguay.
a remote understanding of the every-
day hardship of Cuban people have con-
Quite often, the United States tends to spired against Europe. The continent
come with important news concerning has lost the prominent role it might
Cuba; however, this news is not usual- have played.
ly well reported and there are always
doubts as to whether the primary deci- Undoubtedly, the democratic countries
sions are not influenced by political cir- of Latin America, the United States and
cumstances and purposes, such as, for Europe all want Cuba to be a good and
instance, upcoming elections. And other worthy partner, and the only way how
times, it is the Cuban dictatorship itself to achieve this is to make the regime
who arranges for the dissemination of feel isolated and to show support to
similar information, because this fits the opposition.
perfectly fits with the historical scheme
in which Cuba stands for the victim What Kind of Support
of imperialism. What is astonishing is we Suggest?
that while the United States sells Cuba
foodstuffs for more than 300 hun- We have been asked to suggest some
dred million dollars which the island measures that would help to incorpo-
pays in cash, the international public rate Cuba into the democratic interna-
opinion still accepts Cuba’s complaints tional community.
against the embargo and the block-
ing. The United States needs to speak What I believe to be of great impor-
more about the future, about what it tance is the creation of an information
will do to support the island when it is system which would continuously pro-
free, rather than to speak about what vide news to the leaders of other coun-
is happening there now.
tries. The information should be short,
easily accessible and should constantly
focus on the opposition and the dissi-
dents. The regime has the door open;
the members of the opposition need
someone to open the door for them,
too. On the stage there has to appear
a trustworthy and reliable interlocu-
tor, and that is what the opposition
surely is.
I think that the opposition and the
dissidents have to launch an intensive
campaign to present themselves to the
Latin American politicians. They do so
quite often in the United States and
in Europe and are relatively success-
ful; however, it is essential they launch
similar campaigns in the countries of
the first circle. Moreover, I believe the
public opinion could be very much
influenced, if the International Commit-
tee for Democracy in Cuba organized
a meeting of its prominent members
in Latin America. Such a meeting may
really be very important.
I think no effort should be spared to
associate the supporters of free Cuba
from the different parliaments in a
special group. The group should include
representatives of Latin American coun-
tries, the United States and Europe and
these representatives should regularly
express their support of democracy and
call for the respect of human rights.
They should do so at parliamentary
sessions, in international organizations
and in other spheres of interest.
The opposition and the new generation
of the military, that nowadays has half
of the responsibility, should be provid-
ed all necessary information and be
made aware of the role they can play
in the transition.
The economic support of the regime
comes from two sources – from Hugo
Chávez and from the international
companies which have their invest-
ments in Cuba. The former, who is ful-
ly attached to the ideas of totalitarian-20
ism, is interested in the persistence of
the dictatorship. The case of the latter,
however, is astonishing. Companies of
European origin are very concerned for
their good reputation, they care for the
environment and apply all their qual-
ity standards for the advantage of their
clients and consumers, yet they feel in
no way committed to make any moral
judgements concerning human rights,
freedom and democracy in the coun-
try where they run their business. The
environment and the quality are more
important than human beings and
their rights, and this must change.
consolidation of power in the hands of
Raúl Castro. If there are many individ-
uals in the international community
who want to help Cuba to be free, they
have to work as intensively and sys-
tematically as the regime.
ested in the situation of Cuba. This Inter-
national Committee has made many
individuals committed to the issue. The
opponents of the regime have created
a joint network of their common objec-
tives in a simple and brief platform
which calls for freedom, for the respect
of human rights and for the right to
have a say in the future of their coun-
try. This is a great achievement and the
opposition deserves our congratulations.
We believe that in the future, their plat-
form will have a significant impact on
the internal situation of Cuba.
Photo by
The succession has to be challenged
and the regime has to be adverted so
that under certain circumstances, the
successor would not be recognized. It
is no secret that everything is being
arranged so that the dictatorship can
continue and the international public
opinion is being systematically pre-
pared for it.
Nevertheless, the Cuban people who
The main obstacle for the success of
desire freedom certainly need help
these measures is the fact that the Moreover, the new Commission on from the international community. If
support of the opposition is not shown Human Rights has to take action with- there had been no strain by the inter-
on a regular basis, and the same hap- out any hesitation. And the OAS, in national community in the times of the
pens with the calls for the liberties and accordance with the Inter-American fall of communism in Eastern Europe,
with the demands made on the regime. Democratic Charter, has to start organ- those regimes would have lasted much
The dictatorship, on the other hand, is izing support for free elections so that longer.
in a permanent action, organized by Cuba can be re-integrated into the
authorities used to disinformation and American democratic community.
is very active with diplomacy. Currently,
there is a great deal of intensive work I believe that in recent years we have
being done not just to provide for the seen many achievements. There is an Jaime Trobo , Member of Parliament
survival of the regime, but also for the international community which is inter- (Partido Nacional), Uruguay.the Mexican Debt to
the People of Cuba
Cristián Castaño Contreras
cies, Fidel Castro’s rise to power in
Cuba meant a personal success, since
Gutiérrez Barrios had provided sup-
port to his movement.
ing to export Castro’s communist
regime to other countries. For years,
Cuba spared no effort to intervene
in the affairs of other countries, pro-
viding ideological and military train-
From the 1960s, Cuba was a para- ing to dozens of political and gueril-
dise on earth for the parties hold- la movements. Cuba has been eager
ing political and economic power in to destabilise governments, pro-
Mexico and the island also became vide investments for revolutionary
a center for the illicit activities of movements by consolidating finan-
revolutionary groups which intend- cial strategies, hold up banks and
ight at its beginning, the Cuban
Revolution became a symbol of
liberation which was looked up to by
many Latin American governments
and in particular, by Mexico. The Rev-
olution was much admired especially
by some people in the old Mexican
regime. For Fernando Gutiérrez Bar-
rios, who would become the head of
the Mexican political police and later
would be in charge of domestic poli-22
political and ideological training and
the propaganda of the government
of Hugo Chávez, who nowadays plays
an important role in exporting the
Cuban Revolution.
The international community must
finally speak out. It cannot remain
silent about everything that has
been happening for almost 50
years – about the disappearances,
the summary executions, the pre-
meditated trials leading to inexpli-
cable sentences, the fear and the
terror embedded in the families
which are the very heart of soci-
ety and the absolute marginaliza-
tion of religions and of their social
and spiritual role. The fact that
there is only one person to make
decisions, and that this person has
become untouchable and his deci-
sions unquestionable leads to social
disintegration and makes millions
of people share a monolithic will.
This is what tends to happen in all
authoritative governments, and in
dictatorships like Castro’s this trend
is even more perceptible.
The international community has not
yet paid off its debt to the Republic
of Cuba. There is something we owe
to the millions of Cuban people who
now cannot speak. We owe them
hope that the old regime, replete
with flowers and death, will soon opt
for freedom, democracy and respect
of human dignity, which should be
the first priority of all governments
in the world.
Cristián Castaño Contreras is a Mexican
politician and member of the National Action
Party. On two occasions, he was elected a
federal deputy and in 1998 he founded the
International Promoter of Human Rights.
organize kidnappings. These criminal National Liberation Front in Salva-
activities became known as “revolu- dor, to the FARC and ELN in Colom-
tionary banditry.”
bia, to the radical Montoneros in
Argentina and to the leader of the
Considering the declarations of Jorge Mexican EZLN Rafael Sebastián Guil-
Masetti, Mexico in particular was a lén Vicente.
strategic field for leading a “revolu-
tionary mission.” Jorge is a son of This is quite ironic. For almost five
the famous Argentinian journalist decades, the Cuban government has
and founder of the Prensa Latina been explicitly rejecting the spirit of
news agency and spent several years “interventionism” and “interference”
carrying out acts of “revolutionary whenever any country or political
banditry” in Central and Southern agent dared to pinpoint the constant
America, Africa and Mexico.
violations of human rights on the
island. Yet the regime itself, driv-
Jorge Massetti, who now enjoys en by “revolutionary cynicism,” has
protection by French authorities, felt entitled to back movements and
described how everything had political groups of a similar philoso-
worked and how Cuban Revolution phy, providing them with training
had been exported. People were and financial support so that they
assassinated and kidnapped, banks could establish their governments
and jewellery shops were held up, in other countries.
and there was a great deal of traf-
ficking – weapons, ivory, diamonds In the past, Mexico received thou-
and many other things were smug- sands of exiles escaping authorita-
gled to provide money for subversive tive regimes in other parts of the
activities. These crimes also led to world, such as Franco’s dictator-
the disappearance of Jorge’s father ship in Spain or Augusto Pinochet’s
in law, Tony de la Guardia, who had regime in Chile; nevertheless, the
been entangled in the intricate case Mexican government not only did
of General Arnaldo Ochoa and was remain silent about the systematic,
shot dead as a scapegoat in order to flagrant and outrageous violations of
conceal the smuggling and all the the very basic rights of any Cuban
organized crime perpetrated in order citizen daring to disagree with some
to obtain money for the revolution- official decision of Castro’s govern-
ary movements that Cuba supported ment, but it also gave Fidel Cas-
around the world and especially in tro its moral and financial support
Latin America.
which helped him do many “revolu-
tionary deeds” in Latin America.
According to countless testimonies
of guerrilla ex-leaders, it was the Considering this fact, and bearing
American Department, the cent- in mind that the Cuban government
er for military and revolutionary has prepared its own succession plan
training in Cuba, which backed doz- so that “everything remains as it is”
ens of movements of the Sandinista when Fidel disappears from the scene,
National Liberation Front in Nicara- we have to admit that democratic
gua. Today they are back in the gov- countries need to form a strong alli-
ernment and they are the chief ally ance and denounce all the wrong that
of Castro’s administration now led has been happening on the island.
by his brother Raúl. Moreover, the This need is even more urgent if we
American Department also provid- consider the powerful bond between
ed support to the Farabundo Martí Cuban and Bolivian politicians, theFidel’s Pilgrims
Claudio Paolillo
government introduced a special
procession in which important gov-
ernmental leaders, including several
ministers, act as the “faithful;” the
“saint” they venerate is the Cuban
dictator Fidel Castro. They do not
follow the route to the shrine of St.
James; they take the route to the
shrine of Fidel.
the “fantastic” education and health
programs she had seen in situ. “We
want to build on the Cuban experi-
ence with literacy campaigns as well
as with the medication and vaccina-
tion programs,” she declared during
her stay in Havana. The ex-secretary
general of the Communist Party of
Uruguay also had a talk with the
Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez
In January 2006, the minister for Roque and confessed what the jour-
economic development Marina Aris- ney actually meant to her. When she
When they came to power in 2005, mendi set out on the pilgrimage to arrived, she said to Cuban press that
members of the Uruguayan left-wing Havana and came back dazzled by it was a “dream.”
ilgrimages are almost as ancient
as the history of human civiliza-
tion. Since time immemorial, people
have made long exhausting journeys
in order to worship their favorite
idols. These journeys have often been
closely related to religious faith. The
holy places where people tend to
gather range from the Holy Sepulchre
in Jerusalem to the pitch of the Boca
Juniors football club in Buenos Aires24
I am hearing many of you saying
“well, if this energy saving plan is
so good, so ’fantastic,’ how can it be
that the government, in which she
plays a very important role, has not
decided to implement it in Uruguay?
In this area, the country suffers from
serious limitations: is this because
Uruguay is a country without a lead-
er like Fidel Castro?”
“The route to Fidel’s shrine” was fol-
lowed by another official mission. This
time, the delegation was led by the min-
ister of agriculture José Mujica and by
the deputy foreign minister Belela Her-
rera. Among the delegation was Muji-
ca’s wife, the pro-government senator
Lucía Topolansky. “Fidel is an old man
and me too, so we would like to meet
and have a talk,” said Mujica before
leaving Montevideo. Yet the deputy for-
eign minister, like her both female col-
leagues, could not avoid showing her
enormous satisfaction with the talk
she had had with Pérez Roque, the for-
eign minister of the Cuban dictatorship.
The Cuban “sanctuary” simply seems to
exert a special fascination, mainly for
the female pilgrims of the current gov-
ernment. According to AFP, after her
meeting with Pérez Roque, Herrera said
everything was “fantastic, wonderful
and marvelous.”
by military dictatorships in various
countries of Latin America. The left-
wing ministers of Uruguay know this,
and if they do not, they should know.
What does the last annual report of
the IACHR say about human rights in
Cuba today?
We can now have a look at some para-
graphs of the document. Perhaps they
Captivated by a deep devotion which could sweep the mind of the devout
makes them set out for this “holy place,” Uruguayan ministers and remove the
the current leaders of Uruguay who cobwebs that may be obstructing their
have taken the route to the shrine of reasoning:
Fidel seem to arrive in Havana and find
everything a pilgrim longs for before 1) Since 1959, there have been no peri-
even beginning the journey. They find odic, free and just elections in Cuba
their idol in the land of his power; they based on universal secret suffrage as
meet him in his place, in a special room the sovereign expression of the peo-
for important conversations.
ple. According to the precepts of the
American Declaration of the Rights
However, the Uruguayan “pilgrims” of and Duties of Man, Cuban people are
the route to Havana, who find every- being denied the right to political par-
thing in Cuba “fantastic,” “wonderful” ticipation.
or “marvelous,” are not just “believ-
ers” whose creed has no significant 2.) There are political prisoners in Cuba.
impact on the lives of their fellow citi- Those who denounce or refuse to com-
zens. They are important members of a ply with prison rules are punished with
government and one should therefore extended periods of solitary confine-
expect them to act more deliberately or, ment, have visits by their family and
at least, to be more moderate.
friends restricted and are denied medi-
cal care. Many of them are mistreated
prison guards, even in front of their
The Sanctuary and
families. Did the former Uruguayan
Its True Face
political prisoner Mujica tell the dicta-
A small piece of recent information tor Fidel Castro about this little prob-
might help the Uruguayan politicians lem? He knows what solitary confine-
overcome the sentimentalism which ment, restricted visits, mistreatment
takes hold of them the moment they and denial of medical care mean.
arrive in Cuba and start a conversa-
tion with a man who has been leading 3) In Cuba, the families of those con-
a dictatorship for forty-eight years, the demned for political reasons – which
longest dictatorship in modern Ameri- is to say for not agreeing with Cas-
can history.
tro’s dictatorship – are usually victim-
ized and harassed. Amnesty Interna-
The Inter-American Commission on tional reported that in some cases, such
Human Rights (IACHR) is an organi- as the case of nine political prisoners of
zation working on the American con- the Kilo 7 prison in the Camagüey prov-
tinent. The IACHR is the very same ince, the prison guard threatened to
organization that, during the 1970s call off family visits unless the captives
and 1980s, repeatedly condemned vio- stop doing certain things, for example,
lations of human rights committed reading the Bible. Women who are con-
The pilgrimage to Castro’s “sanctuary”
continued in early April of the same
year with the journey taken by the
health minister María Julia Muñoz.
She was more fortunate than her col-
league, because she could speak with
the “saint” himself. “I was amazed at
the knowledge that Fidel Castro has
about the field of public health,” she
said to the Cuban press agency Prensa
Latina. Moreover, she added that the
“Cuban scientific pole” was a “reference
point for the rest of the world” and,
like Marina Arismendi, she said that
she was impressed by the “fantastic”
Cuban health policies. “Your experi-
ence is very important for the trans-
formation of health care system in
Uruguay,” María Julia Muñoz declared.
The Uruguayan health minister did
not spare any praise of the “revolu-
tionary” energy saving plan. “It would
be nice if other countries, too, had
such a power saving plan, but not all
the countries are lead by a man like
Fidel Castro,” she said.sidered dissidents or opponents of the
government suffer from repression and
violations of their human rights. Some
of them are threatened with prison;
some are persecuted, detained or dis-
missed from work. There families may
also be threatened and persecuted.
tinent where there is truly no free-
dom of expression. Those who wish to
express their opinions freely are met
with repression and censorship; jour-
nalists have to confront censorship
before publishing their articles, they
suffer from acts of repudiation and
those who are imprisoned are subject
4) Unions are not free, and workers to mistreatment. There are indirect
who do not agree with the regime and violations of the freedom of expression,
try to set up unauthorized unions are arrests, threats, search warrants and
systematically persecuted by the politi- reporters may be condemned to two
cal police or are directly imprisoned for to seven years in jail for disrespecting
counter-revolutionary activities. The the president of Cuba.
IACHR describes dozens of workers who
were dismissed for political reasons, for 7) In Cuba, the Internet may not be
signing declarations, for promoting the accessed by ordinary telephone net-
defense of human rights, for providing work. A web connection can only be
information to independent press and used by those who have been granted
for being members of political opposi- permission by an entitled functionary
tion groups. There is only one central of the central administration.
union recognized by the government
on the island, and there can be no oth- 8) The IACHR claims that there is no
er. According to the IACHR, all of these division of public power which would
attacks on the unions’ activities are an guarantee a just administration free
infringement of human rights.
of interference from the other pow-
ers. The fact that courts are subor-
5) The Cuban State does not recognize dinate to the Council of State, led
the right of its citizens to leave their by Fidel Castro, means that judicial
country and come back when they con- power depends directly on executive
sider it appropriate. According to the power; for this reason Cuban courts
American Declaration of the Rights do not effectively provide for the
and Duties of Man, everybody has the rights of the accused, especially if
right to move freely within their coun- they are being tried for political rea-
try and not to leave the country be it sons. Instead of judicial procedures
not out of their free will. When they which would obey international calls
want to travel abroad, Cuban citizens for the respect of human rights, judg-
must have permission from the Min- es in Cuba try the accused according
istry of Interior, while Cuban migra- to ideological and political criteria,
tion authorities continue to deny visas and therefore, not every individual
for political reasons to anybody who is guaranteed the very basic right to
wishes to leave or enter, indefinitely a proper trial.
postponing the review of their applica-
tions. The IACHR claims that the Cuban If some of the “faithful” of Cas-
state restricts the right of abode and tro’s sect still think that the IACHR
the right of free movement; those who is an instrument of imperialism, it
are most affected by this are individu- should be noted that in this very
als that disagree with the current form document, the IACHR speaks against
of government.
the commercial embargo imposed by
the United States decades ago and
6) The IACHR says that Cuba is the claims that its adverse effects are
only country on the American con- an obstacle for a transition from the
current dictatorship towards a dem-
ocratic form of government.
In summary, for 47 years, Cuba has
been governed by a dictator. There
have been no elections in which peo-
ple could elect their government. Peo-
ple are imprisoned for political reasons
and their families are persecuted. There
is no freedom of unions. People cannot
travel outside the island and come back
when they want. Freedom of expression
does not exist, and no one can connect
to the Internet without a prior permis-
sion by the government. Justice is but
a parody directed by Castro.
Forgotten Past
It is astonishing that the current lead-
ers of Uruguay, some of them perse-
cuted in the past by a dictatorship
in their own country, could seriously
believe that all these facts described by
the IACHR are “fantastic,” “wonderful”
or “marvelous.” If they say so only to
remain on good terms with their “dicta-
torial friend” and to receive the blessing
of the holy “Father” of the Latin Ameri-
can left-wing parties, we are faced with
an astounding frivolousness. And if
they are really convinced that the tyr-
anny is “wonderful,” they are repeating
the lie which says that the IACHR, the
UN and all organizations and individu-
als defending and promoting liberty
and human rights in Cuba are “right
wing, neo-liberal, fascist dwarfs, lackeys
of imperialism” and all the nonsense
that Castro and his people promote
in order to avoid any serious analysis
of the present situation and, as usual,
to turn the whole issue to their own
advantage. The Cuban dictatorship in
not “wonderful;” it is rubbish, like all
dictatorships. Sooner or later, even the
“pilgrims” will have to admit this.
Claudio Paolillo  is the editor in chief of
Semanario Búsqueda, an weekly magazine
published in Uruguay, and regional director of
the Interamerican Press Society (SIP).26
Lucas Garve
ou could think that Cuba is united
with Latin America by many means.
But if you part from this point, it is
almost certain that such exact analy-
sis will fail. And you will also fail if
you think that the last wave of democ-
ratization in Latin America could have
an impact on the situation in Cuba in
the sense of a possible transition.
tinent by much more than just the
West Indies Sea. First of all, there is
no tradition of frequent or enthusias-
tic contacts. The elites of Latin Ameri-
cas never showed interest in the tragic
destiny of Cuban communism. In fact,
it suited their purposes.
started to live the dream of many gen-
erations of Latin-American intellectu-
als and politicians, who from the 1890
or so wanted to respond to US politics
from the end of the 19 th and the begin-
ning of the 20 th century.
Cuba had served as a test of the sys-
If we want to start in the beginning to tematization of aggressive North
get an explanation what has happened, American politics in Latin America
Right now, however it seems exagger- we have to look beyond Fidel Castro and, as a bonus, gained the opportu-
ated, the Cuban opposition is separat- and his troops’ first assumption of pow- nity to turn into a field of technologi-
ed from the vast Latin American con- er. From this moment, Latin America cal experiments of everything thatcould be useful for the development
of a consumer society, an accelerator
of the process of globalization that
had started on the very same beach-
es in 1492.
throwing military dictatorships or
from a transfer of power not strongly
support democracy in Cuba?
The OAS, being a multilateral political
organization with the longest expe-
Thus for the last almost 50 years, rience in the world, joins together
Havana has turned from being the 34 member states living in democ-
Paris of the West Indies to a rubbish racy. Why was it not able to estab-
dump where all the embers and bad lish a mechanism of a dialogue with
tempered folks of the bad habits of the Cuban opposition, or, at least,
the anti-imperialism of Creoles, Afri- amongst its own members?
cans, Indians, Mestizos and other
mixed races arrived. For its part, the We have to look for the answer close
birth of the opposition to the Cuban to the image of Cuba as a place resist-
communist regime had a much bet- ant to the pressures and efforts of
ter midwife in the State Department many successive US officials, which
than certain sectors of Cuban nation have tried to take communism out of
that desired to detour the splendid the island. And for a Latin-American
Revolution from what its communis- mentality, this very sold image means
tic path would become.
accepting responsibility for its own
failures. And it is still a consolation.
With the support of exiles 90 miles
from Havana, the Cuban opposition Latin American embassies in Havana
survived thanks to the help of the do not keep close links with the
lungs that blow in a constant mate- Cuban opposition. With the excep-
rial aid and solidarity, both from pri- tion of Costa Rica, which has a repre-
vate and public funds from Miami.
sentation with a rank lower than an
embassy, the others do not exchange
In 1962, the Cuban government courtesy greetings in receptions and
was expelled from the OAS and still seldom and disgustedly receive the
remains in the same situation. Based opponents in their headquarters.
on this fact, most Latin American
governments, with the exception This fatal lack of communication
of Mexico, broke their relationship does not feed the natural links that
with Havana. It was only in the last could possibly exist between the
five years of the 20 th century when Cuban opponents and the organiza-
the Cuban politics focused on rela- tions that defend the human rights
tions with Latin America. And slow- in Latin American countries. Besides,
ly, Latin American governments have in Latin America, I dare to say that
started to reopen their embassies in most of the human rights organiza-
the Cuban capital. They have been tions maintain a left-wing attitude or,
spurred on by the consequences of at least, sympathize with it.
more than a decade of military right-
wing dictatorships and human rights Various leaders of the Cuban opposi-
violations and by the wishes be inde- tion, like Marta Beatriz Roque or Félix
pendent from the United States, Bonne Carcassés, reported that they
which did not look completely appeal- do not to have any close relations
ing in the post- Berlin Wall world.
with officials or diplomats from Lat-
in America, unlike their relationship
This a paradox; you might ask how that exists with their European or US
governments that emerged from over- counterparts.
This lack of communication works
against the rapprochement of the
Latin-American sectors that do
not cooperate with the most radi-
cal left-wing projects on the recent
development of Latin America. A
communication project among the
opposition, Latin American human
rights organizations and Euro-
pean counterparts would have to
pass through the vertexes possibly
established by aforementioned.
The present influence of Cuba’s exte-
rior politics on Latin America would
complicate the transcendence of a
project that would establish net-
works among Cubans and Latin Amer-
ican organizations which could devel-
op survival in their own communities.
Changes in the power towards the
left wing, which we can see in some
Latin American governments, allowed
some tendencies, administrated by
emerging elites who are privileged
by a stream of minority groups that
take the advantage of the exhaustion
of the government structures instead
of updated solutions, to mobilize a
demanding message of a populist
tone through communication chan-
nels at levels of ethnically homog-
enous communities. Actions like the
re-establishment of the sandinismo in
the Nicaraguan government, a neigh-
bor to Costa Rica, reflects the game
played by the Cuban government to
neutralize most internal opposition
and Latin American organizations
and governments.
Lucas Garve is a independent
journalist living in Cuba. He is a member
of Foundation for Free Expression.28
Is Medical Aid the
Revolution’s New Export?
ccording to a 2006 UN report, near-
ly 10 % of the population of the Lat-
in American and Caribbean region lives
on less than a dollar a day, and even
more manage to survive without suf-
ficient food. The region relies a great
deal on foreign aid for help, though
the international community’s efforts
as a whole have not yet been enough
to address all issues. The Cuban surge
in exporting aid has spurred a ongo-
ing controversy; it remains unclear if
its target is to meaningfully help poor
citizens or merely improve its image
in the West.
Official development assistance to Lat-
in America and the Caribbean exceeded
US 5.2 billion US dollars in 2002, the
most recent year for which figures are
available from the OECD. Though sig-
nificant and, in fact, increasing devel-
opment assistance, both financial and
in-kind, is from regional sources, for-
eign aid also comes from Western
sources, both governmental and non-
governmental. According to the United
States Agency for International Devel-
opment, the European Commission,
the International Development Asso-
ciation and the Inter-American Devel-
opment Bank have been the largest
multilateral donors in the region. The
United States, which contributed US
1.2 billion US dollars in 2002, has been
the most significant bilateral donor.
Japan, Spain, Germany, the Nether-
lands and the United Kingdom have
also been active donors. The majority
of this assistance has gone towards
efforts regarding health, education,
water, housing and employment. people. In the Czech Republic, by com-
parison, per capita health expenditure
is 1302 US dollars, and there are, per-
centage wise, almost three times as
many doctors.
Case Study: Bolivia In Bolivia, medical aid has been
amongst the most visible portion
of foreign assistance programs that
also include well-funded anti-narcotics
trafficking efforts and infrastructure
development projects. Help comes not
only from regional sources, such as
Venezuela and Cuba, but from world
governments and non-governmental
organizations as well.
Whereas Cuban medical aid from to
Venezuela is most likely provided in
exchange for cheap oil, financial loans
and other help, Bolivia seems to be
altogether a different case. The UNDP’s
The Cuban surge in
exporting aid has spurred
a ongoing controversy;
it remains unclear if its
target is to meaningfully
help poor citizens or
merely improve its
image in the West.
To serve as a comparison, consider
one such organization active in Boliv-
ia and representative of non-govern-
mental organizations working in the
region. A 25 year old medical non-prof-
it Operation Smile, headquartered in
the United States, has a simple pur-
pose: to give access to life changing
reconstructive plastic surgery to chil-
dren born with cleft lips and palates.
Since 1999, more than 1000 children
have been helped by international and
local missions based in Cochabamba
2006 Human Development Report and Santa Cruz. In practice, it is clear-
ranks Bolivia 115 th on its list of 177 ly different than the Cuban projects;
countries. Sixty-three percent of the Operation Smile’s teams are composed
population falls under the national of experienced surgeons, who volun-
poverty line. Per capita, 176 US dol- tary dedicate their time to the project
lars is spent on health expenditures; and thus spread the good practices of
there are 122 physicians per 100,000 their home country. While the surface
David I. Rabinowitzresults of Operation Smile’s efforts are
easy to recognize, perhaps the more
beneficial and more lasting aid they
give revolves around the commitment
to high quality medical standards,
both in terms of equipment and per-
sonnel, and education programs. Not
all such aid comes with such profes-
sionalism, character and altruism.
Cuba’s approach to medical aid in
Bolivia operates on two fronts. Castro
has both built hospitals and sent his
own doctors to work. As reported by
Cuba’s official newspaper, 23 level II
hospitals were donated to the Bolivi-
an regions of Santa Cruz, Oruro, La Paz,
Cochabamba, Potosi and Beni in March
of this year. The policy of exporting
doctors has been longstanding, wide-
spread and controversial.
Considering the successes others have
had and the lasting impact made by
many governments and organizations
operating in Bolivia, the Cuban method
begins to appear flawed and even inef-
fective. Cuba’s heath care system has
been a long standing source of pride
for the Castro regime. Yet the accura-
cy of their claims of superior coverage
and care is more than questionable;
in practice, the quality of treatment
available to most Cubans is sub-stand-
ard and poor. Hospital facilities have
been described as filthy and un-fit for
humans. Medicine is often in short sup-
ply. With these realities, it seems coun-
ter-intuitive and wrong-headed for the
government to export medical aid. The
country sends supplies abroad that are
needed at home; doctors who could
be practicing in the rural areas of the
island end up working, in some cases
against their will, around the world.
In addition to this issue of expediency,
the dubious standard of Cuban doc-
tors who are sent abroad raises seri-
ous concerns. Credible claims of poor
training and a lack of qualification
abound. Regional doctors, from coun-
tries such as Venezuela, Columbia and
Bolivia, familiar with Cuba’s program
have reported that people with lim-
ited educations are often falsely pre-
sented as credentialed physicians. This
sheer dismissal of Hippocrates and the
threat passed on to patients is horrid.
Doctors around the region and around
the world are well aware of the infe-
rior care exported by Castro; indeed,
their opinion of the regime has been
even worsened by the practice. For a
program intended to win over world
public opinion, this unanticipated side
effect seems crushing.
Winning Hearts and Minds?
In comparison with other similar
projects, the Cuban approach to medi-
cal aid appears to be motivated by a
desire to extend pro-Castro propagan-
da. The history of international aid at
This so-called medical diplomacy origi-
nated with a team of doctors visiting
Chile after it suffered an earthquake in
1960. At the end of 2005, Cuban doctors
were operating in 68 countries around
the world, and more than two dozen
in Latin America, including Argentina,
Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico,
Venezuela and St. Kitts and Nevis. The
Cuban government even offered to send
a team to the United States after the
devastation of Hurricane Katrina.30
large has often had a political compo-
nent; from missionaries to the Mar-
shall Plan, governments and organi-
zations alike have used aid to try and
influence others. True, local people in
Bolivia and other developing coun-
tries have been helped, but the sheer
danger posed by inferior care, and the
attached negative attention drawn to
Cuba, exclude the country’s medical
aid programs from the realm of effi-
cacious and generous help. In the long
term then, while sick locals receive
care, the public’s perception of Cuba
still strives to be healed.
Using aid, medical or otherwise, as
a diplomatic tool to win support
amongst nations rarely works. When in
need, people accept the help they need
regardless of the source. Castro might
gain some support here and there, but
such quick won concessions ultimately
fail. The other side effects are gaining
more admirers in the rich countries as
well as a healthy competition in who
gives more to the poor. Medical aid to
Bolivia and development assistance to
Latin America is much needed, and a
range of sources are working to provide
it. Cuba’s attempts to help have been
tarnished by an overall ulterior attitude,
and in practice, has been questionable
and, at times, harmful. Especially when
compared to Western aid, both govern-
mental and non-governmental, the dif-
ferences that emerge in how such pro-
grams are carried out further harm the
image of Cuban medical aid.
David I. Rabinowitz is an intern at
People in Need. He joined the Operation Smile
Santa Cruz, Bolivia mission in March 2007
as a volunteer medical photographer.
ICDC Activities in LAtin america
T he transition to democracy in Cuba
has already started; experts and
politicians who have played an impor-
tant role in the transition of Eastern
Europe agree. However Latin America
does not seem to notice this, and even
if it does, it obviously does not sup-
port the process. situation and providing information
about what really happens on the
island. This article addresses the cur-
rent state of affairs and describes the
relationship between Cuba and Latin
America. It considers the activities of
both virtual embassies and evaluates
their effectiveness.
The objective of the two virtual embas-
sies that have already been founded
in Latin America by the Internation-
al Committee for Democracy in Cuba
(ICDC) has been to remedy this by
committing Latin America to get more
involved in the democracy in Cuba,
making political leaders aware of the An Important Relationship
In her article about the relationship
between Cuba and Latin America, pub-
lished in the book “Cuba Today and
Tomorrow,” Ana Covarrubias Velasco
claims that, for various reasons, gov-
ernments in the region do not place
Cuba in the center of their attention,
as they might have done in the past.
If Latin America could exist with an
incompatible Cuba by its side for so
many years, it can very well continue
its relationship with the island on the
same terms for many years to come.
Therefore, Ana Covarrubias Velasco
comes to the conclusion that the inter-
American system does not seem to be
a proper and efficient mechanism in
promoting change in Cuba.
Why then should one be concerned
about the relationship between Latin
America and the island in the Carib-
bean? Simply for the reason that if we
Hernán Alberrowant the transition to continue, to be
peaceful and to end without blood-
shed, the role played by the countries
in the region will be of key impor-
tance. This was the experience of the
countries in Eastern Europe and in the
former Soviet Union.
There is another important reason
why it is necessary that Latin Ameri-
ca be concerned about what happens
in Cuba. Many countries in the region
were once victims and they should
not forget about the ones which are
now victims. By forgetting the vic-
tims of today, Latin America will be
forgetting those of her own past. If
neighbors look the other way, take
no notice of the violations of human
rights and are not concerned about
democracy in Cuba, can we really say
that Latin America has overcome the
times of the “big stick?” We must spare
no efforts in making the countries of
the region become engaged with the
situation in Cuba.
Professor Fernando Ruiz believes that
by being reluctant to challenge Cas-
tro, many democratic countries actu-
ally strengthen the dictatorship and
allow the unpunished repression of
dissidents to continue. Ultimately,
these dissidents pay the human cost
of international indifference. There
is more to this issue: by not speak-
ing out against Castro, democratic
countries help create the sensation of
impunity which may in turn seduce
leaders in the region, who are cur-
rently democratic, to cross the fron-
tier that separates them from being
A Message from
European Leaders
The virtual embassies of the ICDC
are an experiment aimed at combat-
ing the lack of interest, information
and concern in the countries of Latin
America. When asked “Why Cuba?,” the
virtual ambassadors – Markus Meckel,
Arnold Vaatz (German MPs), Jan Ruml
(former Czech MP), Philip Dimitrov
(former prime minister of Bulgaria),
Wojciech Bonowicz (Polish journalist),
Rexhep Meidani (former president of
Albania) and Laszlo Nagy (Hungarian
member of the European Parliament)
would answer the following:
With that in mind, the ICDC, People in
Need and the Centre for Opening and
Development of Latin America (CADAL)
invited a number of political figures
from several different countries to
convey their experience with transi-
tion to their Latin American coun-
terparts. Their visits were of great
importance and were much appre-
ciated. Moreover, these people gave
Latin America and Cuba share a lan- voice to those who are not allowed to
guage, a continent and history. They speak in Cuba.
also share their experience with a dic-
tatorship. Who else should play the While seeking solidarity of Latin
key role in the democratization of America with Cuban democrats, I
Cuba, if not Latin America?
have learned two things: 1) The most
touching story, the one which chang-
The transition to democracy can be es opinions and makes people aware
supported in many different ways of certain facts, is a first person nar-
and all are helpful and much appreci- rative. 2) The best way to arrange a
ated. You have to show the dissidents meeting with an important person
that they are not alone and you can is to ask another important person
do this by signing charters, sending for help.
fax messages, making phone calls,
discussing the issue at political meet- The virtual embassy of the ICDC prac-
ings, or directly asking Castro and tices both of these. Its members are
his government to change the repres- distinguished figures who, in their
sive policies.
respective countries, have played a
leading role in a peaceful transition
You should spare no effort in convey- to democracy.
ing your position to Cuban authorities.
They have to know that Latin Ameri- To increase awareness, the virtu-
ca is concerned about what happens al ambassadors have been holding
on the island and that the Southern meetings with different political
American countries know about the figures in Argentina, Uruguay, Bra-
persecution of peaceful dissidents and zil and Chile. They have been having
that in the region, such actions will debates with vice presidents, law-
not be tolerated.
makers, councilors, members of the
opposition and even with the lead-
You can create special institutions ers of left-wing parties which once
and organizations that would include had a close relationship with Fidel
Cuba, providing that there was first a Castro. All these politicians were
definitive change towards democracy given information about the cur-
on the island.
rent state of affairs in Cuba, about
political prisoners and their families
One may think that these answers can and also about dissidents who con-
be given by anybody, but this is not tinue in their work despite the fact
true. In Latin America, especially in that the regime restricts their free-
the countries in the southern part of dom in every possible way. Moreo-
the continent, Europe is considered to ver, the ambassadors of the ICDC
be the ideal example; in Europe, politi- shared their experiences regarding
cians are respected and even admired. how political leaders in other coun-32
The country voted against Cuba in
the Commission for Human Rights of
the UN despite the fact that the Per-
onist President Carlos Menem “secret-
ly” remained on good terms with Cas-
tro. When Fernando de la Rúa came
to power, all diplomatic relations
between the two countries were dis-
continued. With the election of Néstor
Kirchner, relations between Argentina
and Cuba were excellent and Castro
was even granted an honorary citizen-
ship of Buenos Aires. Today, president
Kirchner is still in power, but,relations
with Castro`s government are going
through a somewhat difficult time
due to Castro`s apathy and rigidity
in the case of Hilda Molina, a Cuban
lady who wishes to go to Argentina to
meet her grandchildren.
Argentina is only one example of a
Latin American tradition whose reflec-
tion can be seen in the majority of the
countries. The “surprise factor” is one
characteristic of Latin America; poli-
cies towards Cuba are not designed in
terms of strategy and foreign policy,
the ICDC, but we are be exaggerating
when we say that the virtual embas-
sies have done their piece. Without
these efforts, the president of the larg-
This exchange of experiences, suffering est country in Latin American might
and hope raises awareness of the issue, not have made such a declaration.
wins Cuban democrats more support
and boosts the commitment of those The “Surprise Factor”
who have already offered their help in in Latin America
various ways.
As mentioned at the beginning of this
The virtual embassies are certainly article, Ana Covarrubias Velasco claims
not perfect and, of course, they are that during the course of history, the
not the only means of seeking strong- relationship between Cuba and coun-
er support for democracy. Their cam- tries like Uruguay, Salvador, Argenti-
paigns have been hindered by the lack na, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico has
of resources and time, and therefore, deteriorated several times. Thanks to
their impact has been, in some ways, political changes in the region, how-
limited. Nevertheless and in spite of ever, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil
these obstacles, the results are more are currently amonst the least hostile
than positive.
countries. Sudden and unpredictable
changes are a part of Latin American
Just after a visit by the ambassadors tradition and the attitude of Latin
to Brazil, President Luis Inacio Lula American countries towards Cuba in
da Silva and his government spoke no exception.
up in favor of the transition in Cuba.
We may be hasty in attributing their Over the past ten years, Argentina
declarations to the delegations by changed its position several times.
tries had supported dissidents, and
spoke about how to help the victims
of Castro s dictatorship.but they are implemented according
to surveys and changes in domestic
affairs. Therefore, an act that may
seem unimportant and normal in the
domestic affairs of a democratic coun-
try can trigger an overnight change in
foreign policy towards Cuba.
know that changes in attitude are
inherent to Latin America and that
they will not be supressed forever. If
today the countries are indifferent
to what happens in Cuba, tomorrow
there may be enormous interest, bitter
criticism and calls for democracy. The
current Latin America posture on Cuba
The virtual ambassadors saw this dur- is as frail as the dictatorship itself and
ing their visits to our countries, and both will fall when least expected. We
still they did not become discouraged must be prepared, and in this, the
and did not loose the motivation for virtual embassies of the ICDC play an
further work. On the contrary: they extremely important role.
Hernán Alberro  is Program Officer at
the Center for Opening and Development
of Latin America (
ICDC Activities in LAtin america
Five Europeans Shaking
Castro’s Legend
Jan Ruml
here are five of us and before this,
we had hardly known each other.
Yet a series of mutual telephone calls
from the Prague offices of the People
in Need brought us so close together,
that on one winter gloomy day, we
all met at the Paris Orly airport at the
gate leaving for Argentina. It is a var-
ied group: East-German Social Demo-
crat Markus Meckel, the former Prime
Minister of Bulgaria Philip Dimitrov, a
Polish publisher, a Chilean journalist
and I – a retired Czech politician. We
are about to begin a journey to three
Latin American countries, where we
hope to arouse compassion among the
representatives of these countries for
the people of Cuba, especially the per-
secuted women of the political prison-
ers there. All of us have lived through
dictatorships, and all of us, in some
way contributed to its fall and the to
the first steps of its new freedom. We
all know how important any type of
help from the outside was for us – and
this is exactly what we want to speak
about in South America. Yet when we
find ourselves in Buenos Aires in a few
hours, we cannot stop asking ourselves
the persistent question of whether we
are not there uselessly. It would turn
out that this was not the case.
ed the Goliath of Washington. There-
fore, an individual expressing concern
about the trampling of human rights
on the “Island of Freedom” risks being
labeled as a stooge of President Bush.
Moreover, all of the countries in South
America have their own problems;
this is especially visible in Argentina,
wherever you go. The atmosphere has
a feverish haste to it, as if the people
of Argentina want to run away from
the results of the financial bankruptcy
of the country at the end of the cen-
tury. Here 40 % of the people live under
the poverty line; from their point-of-
As Soon As He Dies
view freedom only serves the rich and
The countries of Latin America have powerful. The extensive slums on the
a romantic relationship with Cuba: outskirts of Buenos Aires obviously
for them, it is the David that resist- tear at the heartstrings, yet in gen-34
At the city council in Buenos Aires
we are greeted in the offices of the
Vice-Mayor by a tall slender man with
sharp features, a representative of the
Justicialist Party and a lover of Prague.
He sums up the reasons why it is
important to have a balanced posi-
tion towards the situation in Cuba.
Because we hear the same argument
from many sources, it can be sum-
marized in general in the following
manner. At the beginning the speaker
assures us that he is a Democrat and
obviously does not agree with the vio-
lation of human and civil rights any-
where in the world. However, then fol-
lows the reminder that one should not
interfere into the affairs of a sovereign
state and that in the end all the prob-
lems in Cuba stem from the American
embargo. If it were not for this “act of
aggression,” everything would have
developed differently. Despite whatev-
er problems they may have, Cuba has
achieved a certain level of security for
the society of which other people in
Latin America can only dream of. For
this Fidel deserves respect, even if it is
possible that in many of his character-
istics, he is a “problematic figure.” And
really, it doesn’t really matter because
until Castro dies, nothing can be done.
We feel this sense of fatalism through-
out our journey wherever we go.
a battle between the police and the
opponents of the visiting George
Bush erupts.
Despite the turbulent atmosphere, we
are able to organize a debate with
young lawyers of the local university
and in the Cathedral we meet with
several dozen Catholic priests who
travel to Cuba and provide their col-
leagues there with a great amount
of moral support. A member of our
group, Wojciech Bonowicz, speaks the
most and his story of the martyr’s
death of Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest
murdered during the period of Soli-
darity by the Polish Secret Police, is
met with a good response. We receive
a similar heartfelt welcome at the
Archbishops in Montevideo in neigh-
boring Uruguay.
Maradona at Mar del Plata Rockets for Salvator
We are greeted harshly in the second
largest city in Argentina Mar del Pla-
ta – it is here that the meeting of the
Organization of the American States
is now taking place. We hope to hand
over our joint declaration to the par-
ticipants of this conference from our
“Virtual Cuban Embassy” and sever-
al lawmakers from Argentina, Uru-
guay, and Chile have signed on to an
appeal to the Latin America govern-
ments to stand up for the release of
the political prisoners in Cuba and
to open up their embassies to the
Cuban dissidents. Our messengers
Meckel and Dimitrov are stopped by
the police blockades. As an unwanted
coincidence, just a few steps from the
inconspicuous activities of our del-
egation, a “protest meeting” is being
held at the local football stadium by
Castro admirer and ideological suc-
cessor, Venezuelan President Chávez,
who has invited two other famous
admirers of Fidel – Argentinean foot-
ball idol Maradona and a bard who
supports the regime in Cuba, Rod-
riguez. Shortly after their show ends, Although Uruguay has turned to the
left through the last few elections,
and its President belongs among
Fidel’s supporters, paradoxically it is
here where we are received at the
highest possible level: we speak with
the Vice-President and the Chairman
of the Senate, the Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs and former President
Lacalle, a member of the Committee
for Democracy in Cuba. Here we can
see the decency towards foreigners
from indistinguishable countries that
are associated with the name of Václav
Havel. This truly opens doors for us
here. After flying to Chile, we speak
for a long time with ex-President Ayl-
win about the mythical Castro, who is
seen in Latin America more as a hero
than as a dictator. According to him,
in the future no politician will reach
the level of importance of being con-
sidered a living legend. They will pos-
sibly be rich or a persuasive speaker
such as Chávez or a descendant of the
oldest Indian tribe such as the new
Bolivian President Morales, promis-
ing to confiscate private property, yet
eral the worst part of the crisis is
behind them: the number of personal
automobiles, the abundantly stocked
shops and restaurants with local
beef and wine from Mendoza leave
no one in doubt that stability, if not
yet prosperity, has returned. Our mis-
sion begins in Parliament, at a meet-
ing with government and opposition
politicians. Argentineans are very self-
confident and do not like when some
one tells them how to behave. There-
fore, the embargo against Cuba by the
United States and the European Union
sanctions are seen by them as proof of
arrogance. A Member of Parliament, a
professor of Constitutional Law, almost
stabs himself with his own fork as he
tries to explain during lunch about
both the evils of the embargo and
that the health-care system in Cuba
belongs among the best in the world.
“Castro is doing a magnificent job,”
declares the energetic man. “Yes, it is
a mistake that he imprisons his polit-
ical opponents and that he does not
allow free elections – which is by the
way unnecessary, because he would
obviously win.” The five of us have our
own opinions about this. Neverthe-
less, the embargo soon appears to be a
touchy subject, even for us. The former
Prime-Minister of Bulgaria Philip Dim-
itrov and I defend it as a principled
position, the Social Democrat Meckel is
against it. We agree that it is an ideo-
logical issue which we must not allow
to divide us.there will still never again be such
a hero. Castro, in the eyes of South
Americans, defeated the great Amer-
ica. No one in the future will be able
to do this.
the bombings of 1973, it occurs to
me what will happen in Chile if the
left again wins the elections.
our luggage. “So gentlemen, what do
you think,” Carlos asked. “Was there
any point to it at all? Was it worth
it?” We sat in our chairs in silence
and allowed all the events to run
through our head. At least some poli-
ticians, former Presidents, journalists
who have their hands tied by self-
censorship and students know that
someone is interested in what hap-
pens outside of their homes. This is
nothing to set the world on fire, but
those individuals who we spoke with
cannot deny this. The response in the
local media is proof of this. One of
the prestigious newspapers in Buenos
Aires asked me what I thought of the
situation in Argentina. I answered
that in Cuba people are imprisoned
for their own ideas. If Castro had
read this, it would have driven him
up the wall.
In Santiago de Chile, an unappealing
city in the middle of the mountains,
The Chairman of the governing Chil- we part with the cloudy smog from
ean Social Democratic Party Ricardo millions of cars. The pollution is so
Núńez belongs among the victims of awful that a plane to blow up one of
the Pinochet dictatorship and spent the mountains, which will allow for a
years in political exile in former East- more natural circulation of the air, has
Germany and in Czechoslovakia. After emerged. Across the beautifully vis-
the fall of the junta, he returned ible, yet mysterious Andes, we return
home and joined the supporters of back to the beginning of our trip – to
reconciliation. He tells us that he is Buenos Aires.
a personal friend of Castro, but criti-
cizes him for the persecution of the We fly back home in stages. First
opposition, and during his visits to Markus Meckel leaves so that he can
Cuba he also meets with the dissi- vote for the Grand Coalition in Ger-
dents and knows, in detail, the plans many. Then Philip Dimitrov moves on
for democratic changes. These plans to the meeting of the Madrid Club in
included the one offered by the most Prague. Wojciech Bonowicz, the Chil-
well known Cuban opposition leader ean journalist Carlos Gonzalez and I
Oswaldo Payá, whose petition has seem to understand one other com-
been signed by tens of thousands of pletely. Upon our return transfer
people. During another meeting in in Paris, during which Gonzalez is
the Presidential palace, in the same almost arrested for his dark complex- Jan Ruml , former Czechoslovak dissident,
place where the rockets fell during ion, we wait absolutely exhausted for served as a Senator and Minister of Interior.36
Transitional Experience
An Economic Analysis of
Central European Reforms
Leszek Balcerowicz
Speech at the Lech Walesa Institute conference in Warsaw, 2007
hat I will discuss here is based
on various studies carried out
over the past few years on the proc-
ess of transformation within a coun-
try, its economy and society, in Cen-
tral and Eastern Europe, where for
a long time the socialist model pre-
vailed. I will not present my own
preferences or opinions, but rather
the results of various investigations,
in which opinion must be grounded.
Firstly, what were the initial condi-
tions? What did this socialist or com-
munist regime represent? It present-
ed three essential characteristics. The
first was that all individual liberties
were extremely limited. In this sense,
it was tyranny. The most severely
curbed liberties were economic, but
the legal market was also prohibited,
since the national companies found
themselves subordinate to central
planning. Foreign exchange was pro-
hibited, which meant that if some-
one wanted to import from, or travel
abroad, they had to ask for foreign
currency from the government. At
the same time, this had an impact
beyond the economic sphere, in that
if that person was out of favour with
the government, they simply saw
their request denied. There was no
freedom to travel either. Communi-
cation means were monitored, both
in terms of censorship of external
communication and self-censorship
of local communication.
of socialist law. Development required
private initiative, but this was syn-
onymous with delinquency. The exist-
Thus, here is the first characteris- ence of a political opposition, such as
tic: extreme restriction of freedom. the presentation of alternative pro-
Nobody in the world has ever been grams, was also considered illegal.
able to grant prosperity when restrict-
ing freedoms to such a degree. In my Furthermore, there was a series of
view, the essence of Marxism consist- huge costs that have nothing to do
ed of recognising that the passing of with the economic aspects; howev-
power to the community, i.e. to the er, I will just briefly mention them
nation, would generate progress. The here. Living in hypocrisy, which many
actual result, it is not hard to predict, today idealize, was not pleasant at all.
was precisely the opposite.
There were enormous economic costs
stemming from wasted time. All the
The second characteristic in itself is socialist countries wasted inordinate
somewhat more pleasant. Previously, amounts of time. There are no excep-
there had been considerable social tions. Let us take the example of Cuba
guarantees, and although it was and Chile. In 1950 Cuba had 56 % of
understood that the situation would Chile’s per-capita income. In 2003
not be better, there was security in they had only 23 %. That is to say half
what existed. Unemployment was of what they had. Let’s take Poland
not discussed openly; it was hidden. and Spain. In 1950, more or less the
Basic consumer goods were cheap, but same, in 1992 Poland had only 42 % of
you had to queue for them. Further- Spain’s per capita income. Spain has
more, you paid in other ways. Dura- developed much faster.
ble items were extremely expensive.
There was no choice. Under socialism, The Experience of Central
companies also acted as social support and Eastern Europe
I will now briefly look at the experi-
And, thirdly, there was no State of ences of Central and Eastern Europe.
Law to provide the basis for the Over a short period of time, the gaps
nation. What does this mean? Activi- widened considerably, both from an
ties essential for development were economic point of view and in other
considered to be crimes in the eyes areas. If we consider with an index
WEstonia. I will take the opportunity
to mention Cuba, where despite the
huge differences, shows certain simi-
larities with China, into which much
foreign capital flows from Taiwan,
Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand,
as well as from the USA, Germany
and France. As I understand it, there
Inflation is fairly unpleasant for peo- are a million Cubans in exile with
ple. It is like your health. When you capital saved, something that Poland
are healthy you don’t think about it, did not have. Not to the same degree.
but when you get sick, you notice. All It is a very important advantage.
countries reduced their inflation lev-
els considerably. Which countries had Frequently, you will hear it said
the most notoriously high inflation that “slower growth is better for our
levels? Ukraine, Russia. That is to well being.” This is nonsense, as you
say countries whose economic results will see. Countries with the highest
were considerably worse. This shows growth have the best results in terms
once again the absurdity of think- of health, equality in pension systems,
ing that high inflation improves well and environmental protection.
being. It is completely the opposite.
In terms of health, we take into
Attracting foreign investment for account a very important aspect.
building companies, start on the Infant mortality. In Poland it dimin-
road of privatization or to acquire ished from 19 to seven deaths per
existing companies is a worthy objec- 1000 births. In other countries of Cen-
tive. Direct foreign investment brings tral and Eastern Europe progress has
new knowledge in terms of technol- also be made. But in Russia we can
ogy and organization, which can- note a drop from 23 to 17, a signifi-
not be learned in manuals. For this cantly less impressive improvement.
reason, as we all know, any sensible
government will work on attracting Is life expectancy increasing? This
more foreign investment, including would be a good way of measuring
already rich countries such as the quality of life. In Poland, Slovakia and
United States, France and Great Brit- other countries of Central and Eastern
ain. Therefore, it is interesting that Europe life expectancy has increased
there have been huge differences in in only three years.
the post-communist world in the
amount of foreign investment per Income differences. Inevitably certain
capita between 1989 and 2005.
inequalities increase if the economy
is freed from political tutelage. What
According to this measure, which inequalities are we talking about? If
countries head the Central and East- you allow a system of free enterprise,
ern Europe region? The Czech Repub- this will lead to higher incomes. Dur-
lic and Estonia and then Hungary. ing the socialist regime there was no
Poland is more or less at the same point in education – from an econom-
level as Mexico, although the latter ic point of view – as people with an
has a longer capitalist tradition. But education did not have higher sala-
look at the Ukraine or Russia, which ries than those who did not. All of
have between ten to 20 times less this changes in a country with a mar-
capital than in the Czech Republic or ket economy. So there is no point in
of 100 the level of GNP in 1988 we
will see that Poland achieved at that
time its greatest relative growth, 47 %,
although it could have done better.
Looking at Ukraine and Russia we see
that their incomes are still under the
levels at the fall of the Soviet regime.
complaining that inequality increases.
Inequality is measured by the Gini
index. In Poland it increased to 24,
which is no more than in other coun-
tries of Central and Eastern Europe. It
is not true that in Poland inequality
has increased to record levels; how-
ever, in those countries where less
reforms were implemented, these fig-
ures increased notoriously: Russia and
the Ukraine. For fewer reforms, more
inequality, while there are fewer skills
and greater fortunes linked to politi-
cians. So, if you do not want inequali-
ties to increase, or as I would say, you
want “fairer inequalities,” you also
have to reform the country and the
economy and not block this process.
Socialism was very destructive for the
environment, as it was an expensive,
wasteful system and consumed too
much raw material and energy. What
changed? Quite a lot, but to different
degrees. A good measurement is how
much PNB was generated per unit of
energy used. The more that is pro-
duced from a single source, the bet-
ter. In Poland this improved consider-
ably, from 3 to 4.5, which puts us at
the same level as South Korea. It is
not bad. In other Central and Eastern
European countries, improvements
have also been made. However, in Rus-
sia, the situation is different in that
they still have an economy that con-
sumes enormous amounts of energy.
The conclusion is the following: it is
not possible to be a reasoned ecologist
and be against a market economy.
An observation can be made, that
countries with the worst starting
points should experience slower
growth, as their economies were in
a worse state. It is true. For exam-
ple, Lithuania, a country consider-
ably smaller than Poland, depended
more heavily on the Soviet Union.
The cost of the fall of the USSR was
high for Lithuania and its per-capita38
are applied, the economic growth has
been greatest. I have omitted here
I will now present what seem to be three countries, those for which it
the main conclusions, which in my is statistically impossible to draw an
view should be transmitted to other example: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
countries in comparable situations. and Belarus, three dictatorships with
I think that Cuba, with its social- anti-market systems.
ist economy and central planning, is
sufficiently similar to be considered The best example is perhaps Armenia.
one such country. Therefore, I will A country with a very unfavorable
firstly refer to one of the extremely geographic location, far from the sea,
important conclusions. The more mar- surrounded by hostile neighbors, Tur-
ket reform, the better the econom- key and Azerbaijan. A country which,
And why do those countries that ic results and non-economic results. since 1999 has achieved phenomenal
achieved the best economic results Those that block the application of economic success. Growth of 10, 13,
usually have the best results beyond reform are affecting the people. They 14, 10 and 14 %. In Poland we dream of
the economic sphere? Here fewer are hindering growth and contribut- managing 5 %. Armenia did what prac-
studies have been done and we rely ing to the increase of unemployment tically no other country of Central and
on a bit of popular wisdom. If a but present themselves as benefactors. Eastern Europe did, with the exception
country is to develop economically, it And it is precisely those who proclaim of Lithuania, which was to reduce the
must introduce the concept of skills the greatest love for the people who government spending in the economy.
and the market, if it introduces skills cause the greatest harm. A statistic The ratio between public spending and
and the market, enterprise begins fact. We have here a level of trans- GNP fell from 30 % to 17.7 %, while in
to flourish and the environment formation measured by the European Poland it stands at 44 %. This is called
improves. Furthermore, it transforms Bank for Reconstruction and Develop- eurosclerosis. In Armenia it was nec-
from a lawless state to a State of ment based on eight partial indicators essary to reduce taxes to 14 % of GNP,
Law, and legislation relating to ecol- including both privatization and eco- which is similar to the fiscal impo-
ogy also begins to be applied, thus nomic liberalization. The conclusion is sition of the Asian tigers. This was
favoring the environment.
that in countries where more reforms accompanied by a drop in inflation.
income fell by 40 %, while in Poland it
only fell by a few percentage points.
But the differences in initial condi-
tions only work for short-term goals,
while long-term objectives need oth-
er strengths. The greater the mar-
ket reforms, the more we move
away from socialism and the better
the economic results are. Therefore
Lithuania has gained on us in the
past years because they reformed
more rapidly.It is worth reiterating, since people
forget, that institutional reorganiza-
tion, while it also needs to be done
Reform of a market economy is based rapidly cannot be carried out as
on three essential factors.
quickly as liberalization or stabiliza-
tion. Here people need to learn new
Firstly, liberalization. That is to say skills. It is a time-consuming process,
the elimination of political restric- however, this is no reason to wait
tions that put the brakes on any 20 years to do it. What is needed is
reform process. This means firstly preparation, as that shock therapy
eliminating the barriers that prevent of the initial phase is three to four
the creation of private enterprises, years long.
one of the essential characteristics
of socialism. Secondly, this is painful Inseparable Reforms
but indispensable, if energy is cheap
because it is subsidized, it will always In Poland, we managed to apply ini-
be unprofitable. And the environment
will suffer. Frank interaction with the
outside world is essential to develop
international commerce and maintain
an even local currency value.
Reconstruction, Stability
Secondly, reconstruction of institu-
tions. That is to say either the crea-
tion of new institutions that were
unable to exist under socialism, or
the reorganization of existing ones.
For example, under the old social-
ist regime it was forbidden to have
a stock exchange. And what needs
to be reorganized? The business sec-
tor. Privatizing this sector means tak-
ing away the politicians’ power over
companies. And because politicians
are necessarily bad, they are no bet-
ter or worse than your average citi-
zen. It is also necessary to reorganize
public institutions such as the Courts
and the Judicial Authority, and con-
vert them into independent and com-
petent bodies, dedicated to learning
how to apply new legislation. Before,
speculators were prosecuted, and now,
private owners need to be protected.
A completely different task.
If there is liberalization,
especially if it happens
unexpectedly, there
is initially a period
of euphoria. This is
extra time, a great gift
from history. And this
time should be put to
good use by trying to
apply competently
the greatest number
of reforms possible.
tially reform on a wide front, rather
rapidly. Some times this process was
erroneously referred to as shock ther-
apy and people were unnecessarily
afraid, as the word “shock” conjures
up for many the image of an electric
shock. It is better to speak quickly
And thirdly, it is important to and in a wide spectrum. What are
ensure stability, such as in prices, the arguments for such a strategy?
that inflation is kept low, to prevent It turns out that many elements are
public debt growing to such levels linked. For instance, if free prices are
that it presents a major threat and to exist, there must be the capacity
provokes a crisis.
to ensure that producers do not abuse
the situation. And for this capacity to
exist there must be a liberalization
process, enterprises must be created
and the must be an opening up to
the outside world. There are many
such interdependencies. Economic
reforms that are applied following
socialism are difficult to separate out.
Just like with some medicines, there
is a minimum dose.
If there is liberalization, especially
if it happens unexpectedly, there is
initially a period of euphoria, fol-
lowed by frustration. The groups
from the previous system find them-
selves discredited and the opposition,
if it exists, has not yet entered the
confrontation phase. This situation
can last for a year, a year and a half.
This is extra time, a great gift from
history. And this time should be put
to good use by trying to apply com-
petently the greatest number of
reforms possible. Afterwards it will
be much more complicated, and since
it is impossible to do everything in
this short period of time, as much
must be done as can be managed.
The third argument is based on the
psychology of society, specifically the
theory of cognitive dissonance. It is
known that when people do not like
something but recognize the change
as irreversible, they will come to
accept it after time. Therefore, the
more decisively that changes are
made, the more strongly they will be
Three Privatization
The first has to do with openness to
the possibility of creating new com-
panies, which is very important for
the people Secondly, in the beginning
there are state companies, which if
they are not privatized will disap-
pear. Therefore they must be priva-
tized quickly. And finally, it is very40
Banking system
It should be recalled that in the
beginning there are no real banks
and no people who know the bank-
ing sector. Therefore there are two
strategies. The first is not to post-
pone the privatization process so
that banks do not disappear. Then,
inevitably due to the lack of capi-
tal and know-how, there is a strong
need for foreign capital. This hap-
pened everywhere: Poland 71 %, Slo-
vakia 97 % and Lithuania 91 %. Every-
where there is a large part of foreign
capital in banks. And if privatization
was put off, that means that state
ownership dominated and there
were weak private banks. This situ-
ation is above all the case in Russia,
let alone Belarus. Thus it was nec-
essary to choose between one mod-
el and the other. There is no third
way that leads straight to the Swiss
banking model. The starting condi-
tions do not enable it.
ity is maintained. It is better not to
have a deficit or accumulate public
debt as this leads to the instability
of economic administration.
comparative position of the miners
lowered, although not in absolute
terms. Librarians, engineers or busi-
ness people gained. However, it must
be understood that it will be diffi-
cult to find much support for reform
Wait for the best time?
among these groups. The compara-
It is very important to remember tive position between a librarian and
that the conditions to apply reform an engineer improved. But they are
do not ripen like fruit in the garden. so busy building their professional
This means that waiting does not careers that they do not participate
always have an effect, the biological much in public life.
metaphor is misplaced. Each occasion
must be seized. But to be able to do During socialism there were high
so, you must be prepared, with a pro- levels of unemployment. This was
gram and a team of people ready to hidden. When you switch to a mar-
begin reform rapidly and to imple- ket economy, the existence of unem-
ment reforms in such a way that ployment is brought to light. From
there can be no going back.
the individual’s point of view it is
better to be doing nothing in a job
Also, the role of the communication that looks fine from the outside.
media is crucial. During the commu- However, are these valid arguments
nist regime the media was control- not to reform? Of course not. First-
led and many people thought that all ly because without reform a country
was well, that there was no poverty, can only fall into disarray. Secondly,
no crime. When the media are freed, if it falls into disarray everyone will
which is a good thing, they begin to be unsatisfied eventually. Everyone.
focus on all the negative news of the And rightly so.
new reality. The solution is not to
maintain censorship, but that it is
crucial to educate journalists in the Leszek Balcerowicz is former Minister
spirit and ethics of professionalism
of Finance and President of the Central Bank
Even reform will give rise to dissat-
isfaction. It is true. Because if there
were no dissatisfied people, reform
would have been carried out a long
time ago and there would have been
no complications. The fact that eco-
Finally, it is very important to lead nomic reforms succeed, that is to
the country to monetary stability. say that they speed up development,
Money in today’s world is not worth enables us to compare how certain
its weight in gold, or in silver. It groups do badly and others progress.
can be multiplied indefinitely and Let us take miners, for example. In
rapidly, affecting its value. In this Poland, under the old communist
regard, money must be stable and systems they were highly paid in
strictly controlled. This role falls comparison with other people who
to an independent central bank. It had much prestige. This was due to
will probably receive money from the fact that, among other things,
another country, such as dollars. In socialism did not count the costs.
this case, another central bank, an What happened when the move was
external one, will ensure that stabil- made to a market economy? The
of Poland. He is famous for implementing
the Polish economic reforms.
important when the country wish-
es to recover, that it protects itself
from foreign capital. As I was men-
tioning earlier, it seems to me that
Cuba has an advantage in that it
has considerable capital outside the
country. Studies show that under our
conditions, companies with foreign
capital increase profitability more
quickly and as a result can pay bet-
ter salaries.Document
Support to unity
for freedom
European NGOs express their support of the
Declaration of Unity of the Cuban Opposition and
call for Europe to also stand united on Cuba
erlin, 26 April 2007. On the occa-
sion of the meeting organized
by the International Committee for
Democracy in Cuba (ICDC) on “Democ-
racy in Cuba: Seeking Common Ini-
tiatives,” the undersigned European
NGOs gathered in Berlin express their
full support of the recent declaration
of unity made by the Cuban demo-
cratic opposition.
The undersigned NGOs endorse this
declaration of unity and hope and
commend all individuals and groups
involved in this initiative for their
courage, vision and leadership.
The same leadership and courage is
needed at a European level. A prin-
cipled stance, whereby human rights
and democratic values will prevail
over national interests, is what
On 14 April, the leaders of the the undersigned NGOs are request-
opposition in Cuba, together with ing from European Union leaders.
members of independent civil soci- A stronger Common Position would
ety, adopted the declaration “Unity allow for this and send a clear mes-
for Freedom”. Through this declara- sage to the Cuban opposition and
tion the opposition proclaimed its Cuban people that Europe supports
union in seeking the establishment and endorses their struggle.
of democracy in Cuba. It also stated
that its common goals would be the We call upon European leaders to put
respect for human rights in Cuba, aside their differences, as poignantly
national reconciliation and social jus- done so by the Cuban opposition forc-
tice. These goals are to be achieved es, and to take a common and princi-
through peaceful and democratic pled stance to fully support the demo-
means. The declaration also reiter- cratic forces in Cuba.
ates its request that political prison-
ers be unconditionally released with- » Maria Luisa Bascur, Cuba Futuro,
out further delay.
This declaration confirms the de fac- » Javier Martinez-Corbalan,
to cooperation of the opposition over
Fundacion Hispano Cubana, Spain
the past years. It is a clear signal
that the different streams and move- » Nikola Horejs, People in Need,
ments of the Cuban democratic oppo-
Czech Republic
sition are ready and willing to work
together to establish democracy in » Katrin Wittig, International Society
the island.
for Human Rights, Germany
» Annabelle Rodriguez, Encuentro de
la Cultura Cubana, Spain
» Marianne Moor, IKV Pax Cristi,
» Natalia Bellusova, Iberoamerican
Association for Liberty, Spain
» Agnieszka Gratkiewicz, Lech Walesa
Institute, Poland
» Tomasz Pisula, Freedom and
Democracy Foundation, Poland
» Annika Rigo, Christian Democratic
International Center, Sweden
» Martin Pasiak, Pontis Foundation,
Slovak Republic
» Diana Ivanova, Cuba Libre, Bulgaria
» Mae-Liz Orrego Rodríguez, Swedish
International Liberal Centre, Sweden
» Anna-Lee Stangl, Christian
Solidarity Worldwide, Belgium
» Eliska Slavikova, People in Peril,
Recommendations for
the European Union’s
policy towards Cuba
policy between EU Member States, EU
institutions, NGOs, and other relevant
actors on the occasion of the upcom-
ing reevaluation of the Common Posi-
tion of the EU towards Cuba.
Introduction and decided to start working on a
mid-term and long-term strategy. The
presenters of this paper welcome this
decision and believe that a reasonable
strategy will enable the EU to assist
Cuba in a peaceful transition towards
democracy and a free society.
In the last revision of the Common
Position of 1996, the European Coun-
cil confirmed the further deterioration
of the human rights situation in Cuba In its Common Position the EU pledges
to facilitate peaceful change in Cuba
and promote respect for human rights
by intensifying the dialogue with the
his paper is comprised of recom-
mendations for the mid-term strat-
egy of the European Union towards
Cuba. It was prepared by Europe-
an NGOs that carry out projects in
Cuba in support of independent civ-
il society and is thus based on their
research on the island and interviews
with civil society representatives. The
paper aims to contribute to the dis-
cussion on EU policy towards Cuba
and enhance the dialogue on Cuban
Berlin, Germany, April 2007government and “all sectors of Cuban
society.”1 The process of reflection
over the EU policy towards Cuba has
not brought any visible results so far.
Since the last revision of the Com-
mon Position in June 2006 there were
attempts by the two presidency coun-
tries to propose new strategies with
more concrete measures to be taken by
the EU member states with the aim of
supporting democratic forces in Cuba.
However, not all EU member states are
open to discussion over common EU
policy because it interferes with their
bilateral relations with Cuba and with
their economic interests.
The Cuban government has not
respected any demands for the release
of political prisoners and respect for
human rights set as conditions by the
EU for further negotiations concerning
EU-Cuba relations. The overall human
rights situation has worsened over the
past year as reported by many inter-
national organizations. Any further
cooperation with future Cuban lead-
ers must be only entered into with the
pre-condition of the release of politi-
cal prisoners.
b) Insist on a visit of Javier Solana’s
Special Representatives for Human
New developments on the island with
This visit should be made with the
the succession of power from Fidel Cas- goal of meeting the representatives of
tro to his brother Raúl, show that the civil society, as well as raising human
regime is ready to hold on to its pow- rights concerns with the Cuban gov-
er even after the demise of Fidel. This ernment.
would most probably preserve the total-
itarian regime, and for Cubans, a life c) Demand that the new heads of the
without respect for their basic rights regime organize free and fair elections
and freedoms. The European Union with the presence of international
should, through its re-defined Com- observers
mon Position, send clear signals to the
As recent developments on the
political, military and economic elites in island show, the succession of power
Havana that it will not tolerate the con- from Fidel Castro to his brother and
tinuance of this oppressive regime and it Minister of Defense Raúl Castro is the
will not engage in cooperation until the scenario the regime is slowly push-
Cuban regime makes significant changes ing through. There is no doubt that
towards democracy and rule of law.
this succession would preserve the
totalitarian nature of the regime and
oppression against the Cuban people
who have had no possibility to decide
The European NGOs submitting this if this is the fate they want for their
paper would like to offer their experi- country.
ence of working with Cuban independ-
ent civil society and monitoring the sit- d) A targeted visa ban applied to
uation on the island, and thus suggest Cuban officials directly responsible for
that the future EU strategy should be human rights violations
based on the following areas:
Pressure on the government to
respect human rights should be com-
1. Measures towards the Cuban
plemented by targeted measures. In
particular, they should be considered
with regard to top Cuban officials,
for example judges and prosecutors
The EU should
a) Maintain pressure regarding the involved in the trials of human rights
release of political prisoners and activists and members of State secu-
respect for human rights
rity apparatus.
2. Support for Independent Civil
Society in Cuba
The EU should
e) Support independent civil society
by providing funding for their projects
and organizations
Emerging civil society movements
exist in Cuba that are able to partly
evade the omnipresent state imposed
control and survive its repressions.
These movements are key to peaceful
changes in Cuba. They cannot survive
without support from the international
democratic community.
f) Appoint an EU Special Envoy for
Transition and Democracy
The EU should appoint a Special Envoy
to Cuba who, with the help of an advi-
sory body comprised of experts on Cuba
and transition to democracy in com-
munist and totalitarian regimes, would
assess the key actors in transformation,
design different alternatives for the
strategy based on similar experiences in
other regions and propose specific steps
to be taken to implement this strategy.
g) Encourage the dissemination in Cuba
of information on the experience of
transition to democracy from EU mem-
ber states
Many EU member states have gone
through successful transitions from
totalitarian regimes to democracy; they
are willing to share their experiences
with Cubans. There are numerous pub-
lications on European transitions to
democracy that analyze the different
aspects of transitions and compare
the steps taken in each country. The
EU should encourage the dissemina-
tion of such information through their
h) Provide increased access for the free
flow of information
Every mission in Cuba of an EU Mem-
ber State should be encouraged to have
computers with internet connection
accessible for members of civil soci-44
ety. A selection of European newspa-
pers, magazines and recently published
books should also be made available. At
least some of these publications should
be available in Spanish.
i) Take a more active role, through the
European Commission (EC) Delegation in
Havana, to further develop civil society
As the representative of the Euro-
pean Union, the EC Delegation should
take a leading role in promoting human
rights, including through the support
of projects, and intensify its contacts
with independent civil society. It should
be actively involved in the above-men-
tioned recommendations e, g, and h.
about EU policy regarding human rights
defenders, as well as to a decreased lev-
el of protection. The EU representation
should take a proactive role in ensuring
that Cuban human rights community is
aware of the guidelines through dissem-
ination and capacity building.
If European policy is to be effective, it
is important to find common ground
with other relevant international actors,
such as the US, the UN and the coun-
tries of Latin America.
Despite apparent differences in their
policies, there are already many shared
elements. Common ground is a neces-
sity for a peaceful transition and there
are many similarities in the policies.
k) Emphasize Symbolic Elements of EU
policy towards Cuba
The opposition and Cuban citizens
should know that they are internation-
ally supported and that they are not
alone. New symbolic measures should
be implemented by EU diplomats in
Havana – for example, personal visits Prepared by
to the families that have been subject- International Helsinki Federation
ed to an act of repudiation and to the Christian Solidarity World Wide
j) Ensure the full implementation by all leaders of the independent civil society Pontis Foundation
EU representations, including member movements. They should also invite civ- People in Need
state missions and the EC Delegation, il society representatives to all public Cuba Futuro
of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights events organized by EU Embassies.
Asociacion Iberoamericana por la Libertad
International Society for Human Rights
Human rights defenders report that 3. Working in the International Arena Christian Democratic International Center
different member states’ missions imple-
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
ment the guidelines to varying degrees. The EU should
People in Peril Association
This has led to confusion among the l) Work towards a common approach on Fundacion Hispano Cubana
human rights community in Cuba Cuba with other international actors
a Landmark Year for Cuban
Activities in Bulgaria
Diana Ivanova
his year is a very special one for
Cuban activities in Bulgaria. The
Cuba Libre Days, organized by the
Cuba Libre Civic Association for the
third time, turned the attention of
citizens and the media to the develop-
ments in present day Cuba and encour-
aged a new and free dialogue between
the people of Cuba and Bulgaria.
worldwide bestseller, the book is once
again brining attention to the ugly
realities of Cuba. It is also notable that
this is the first book by a contemporary
Cuban published in Bulgaria since the
fall of the communist regime.
This topic has become banal to some
extent for young people. The use of art
This is especially important since oth-
er two major Cuban associations in
Bulgaria, which were established by
people and artists who used to live
and work in Cuba under communism,
follow literally the romantic propa- The editorial Aduana Vieja and the Spanish
ganda of Castro’s regime without any NGO Solidaridad Española con Cuba pub-
mention of human rights and new lished the first Solidarity Guide of Cuba. The
trends on the island.
authors are Ricardo Carreras Lario and María
Ángeles Altozano, president and communi-
Our aim was to reach a variety of cations director of the NGO.
people, especially young people, and
that is why we turned to the lan- It is the first guide of its kind on any coun-
guage of film and literature. The six try, and it combines tourist information with
films shown in two days featured detailed data about Cuban political prison-
Benigno – Farewell to a Revolution, ers and their relatives. It includes informa-
Suite Habana, Sin Embargo and the tion about the dignified Damas de Blanco,
short documentaries Nada Con Nadie, human rights activists, churches, dona-
Jose Manuel, la Mula y el Televisor tion centers, independent libraries and the
and La Maldita circunstancia. More emerging Cuban civil society. It shows the
than 200 people attended the screen- other Cuba that is hidden by the Cuban
ings of the Cuba Libre Days. Bulgarian government and not shown by other Cuba
national television, for the first time, guides. This innovative initiative is organized
aired information about the current by provinces and contains unique informa-
situation on the island and about the tion about the island and some facts unfa-
Cuba Libre events.
miliar to the usual traveller.
and cultural events to open a dialogue
on Cuba is in tune with the current
political landscape in Bulgaria, where
the communist past still looms largely
without proper reflection.
For more, please refer to
the First Solidarity Guide of Cuba
2006. It was downloaded by over 15,000
people and has now been translated by
different NGOs into French, English, Polish
and German.
The new version now published includes
more information, such as recommenda-
tions for medicines and books to donate.
The objective is to open the eyes and hearts
of the traveller, so that he or she expresses
solidarity with all these noble and suffer-
ing people by writing them a letter, bringing
books, medicine or human solidarity.
We would like to thank People in Need, who
provided us with the beautiful pictures of
Las Damas de Blanco. We would also like to
thank Angel García, who provided the photo
of the cover page, and artist Arístides Miguel
Pumariega Montes, who provided his paint-
ing of Picasso, as well as Cuban independent
photographer Carlos Serpa Maceira, who
sent us the photo of Laura Pollán and Berta
Soler from Cuba that appears on the back.
To all of them, thank you very much.
The other big public event that was Solidaridad Española con Cuba has been
the translation and premiere of the promoting Solidarity Travel for two years
book “Dirty Havana Trilogy” by Pedro now. The slogan of this concept is “if you
Juan Gutierrez, the first book of the go to Cuba, go well,” which in Spanish has
series “New Cuban Literature” by Janet- the double meaning of travelling well and And to those travelling to Cuba just one rec-
45 Publishing House. After being trans- also seeing the reality well. The first elec- ommendation: “If you go to Cuba, go well; if
lated into 15 languages and becoming a tronic version of the guide was released in you go to Cuba, support them.”47
46CUBA-EUROPE DIALOGUES is now available in a new online version at
NEWS Your weekly selection of the Cuban independent press. Roundup of
the headlines. Comments by prominent authors and dissidents.
CUBa/eu Upcoming and past events by European NGOs. Policy
papers and studies of EU-Cuba relations.
dialogues Online version of the bulletin, extra studies, comments and reactions.
human rights Updates on the human rights situation. Online resources.
media A choice of exclusive articles for your media and service for foreign
CUBA – EUROPE DIALOGUES / Quarterly Bulletin on Relations between Cubans and Europeans / 3 / 2007
Published by People in Need, Prague, Czech Republic, with the cooperation of European NGOs and with support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Editors: Nikola Hořejš ([email protected]), Dita Grubnerová , David I. Rabinowitz. To obtain this bulletin in Spanish please visit

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