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    Foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spells out Cuba’s new revolution

    Foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spells out Cuba’s new revolution
    04/02 14:48 CET

    The commercial embargoes have been falling one after the other.

    The official visit of Raul Castro to France talked about a new reality
    between Cuba and Europe. Between Cuba and the World. Symbols were in
    evidence.

    In August 2015 there was another very iconic image: the US flag was
    raised again in Havana. Eight months before, Barack Obama and Raul
    Castro announced the normalisation of US-Cuba relations.

    Now the revolution is heading for a new stage, gradually, and at two speeds.

    There will be daily flights to Miami, a new middle class has started to
    emerge, licenses can be obtained to start a private business, buy and
    sell cars and houses, even if the vast majority of Cubans cannot afford
    them.

    But the political system still depends on an elite linked to the Armed
    Forces and the Communist Party remains the only player.

    The new economic reality, for now, does not appear to translate into a
    substantial improvement in human rights and liberties.

    To know more about this crucial moment in Cuba’s history, we have
    interviewed the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.

    euronews: “Foreign affairs minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, thank you
    for accepting our invitation to talk to us. The President Raul Castro
    has chosen Paris for his first state visit to the European Union. Why?
    Is France going to get privileged treatment because it’s willing to
    restructure the Cuban debt?”

    Foreign Affairs Minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “Since the French
    Revolution, France has had a very special influence in Cuba. There is a
    strong relationship, confirmed by decades of recent history with a very
    positive development of bilateral ties. We recognise the leadership of
    France in Europe. I feel that this visit marks a special perspective for
    the development of our bilateral ties. This is definitely an historic
    visit. Circumstances led President Hollande to visit Havana months ago,
    which was a decisive step. And now President Raul Castro Ruz has
    reciprocated the gesture by coming to Paris.”

    euronews: “This visit is very much about economy but has the issue of
    human rights in Cuba been on the agenda of the talks with the French
    authorities?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “The visit is very versatile, not exclusively
    economic. We have had exchanges on numerous issues of a political
    nature. France and Cuba share many similarities in the international
    agenda. So, our links are diverse and, therefore, the exchanges have
    also been diverse. The issue of human rights was not central but we
    exchanged views on that and also about some other concerns that are
    important for both our countries.”

    euronews: “The European countries, less sensitive to the ongoing changes
    in the island or let’s put it this way – more demanding with the
    situation of human rights on the island – are they going to lose
    business opportunities in the new Cuba?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “The European Union and Cuba have had a
    political dialogue at the highest level for years, which includes
    various topics. And more recently, we initiated a bilateral dialogue on
    human rights based on a process that began in 2010 under the French
    presidency of the European Union. French companies have had a major
    presence in Cuba for years. But it is also true that other members of
    the European Union are, equally, our traditional partners in trade and
    investments. Or they are major providers of tourism to Cuba. We
    shouldn’t be mixing up political issues with mutually beneficial relations.”

    euronews: “In December 2014, Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the
    start of the normalisation of US-Cuba relations. Since then there have
    been many symbolic gestures but perhaps not so much real progress.
    Expectations were too high maybe?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “I don’t think so. The announcement of
    December 17th was surprising and certainly important. It was unusual for
    the world to hear the President of the United States of America
    recognise that the policy of the past 50 years had failed, a policy that
    has caused humanitarian harm to our people. This actually marked the
    beginning of the discussions that led to the restoration of diplomatic
    relations and the reopening of embassies, which happened last summer. I
    feel that there has been progress in dialogue and cooperation, in
    numerous bilateral issues of common interest. But, although some
    positive measures have been adopted, there has been a very limited
    progress in relation to the modification of the blockade. This is where
    we do not see tangible progress.”

    euronews: “Has Washington given you a precise date for the end of the
    sanctions? Is it going to be announced before Obama quits the White House?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “Hard to say. The blockade is the big issue.
    The manner in which the embargo will be modified regarding its
    elimination will determine the meaning and scope of the ongoing process
    between the United States and Cuba. There will be no normalisation,
    obviously, without a complete termination of the blockade, which
    requires a decision by Congress. However, the US President retains very
    extensive executive powers, that used with determination, could change
    the embargo very substantially.”

    euronews: “This is an election year in the United States. The coming
    handover in Washington could affect the Cuban thaw? Which candidate is
    better for Cuba?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “In a functional democracy, any candidate who
    is elected would have to follow the dictates of the voters, the wishes
    of the voters, the will of the people who pay taxes. Nobody contests
    that there is a very large majority in the American society – in all its
    sectors- in favour of ending a policy rooted in the Cold War, which has
    not brought any results apart from causing considerable humanitarian
    damage to all Cuban families. However, we should admit that there are
    differences between the different candidates but every one of them, will
    certainly have to deal with a new and unprecedented situation in the
    relations between the United States and Cuba.”

    euronews: “Do you fear that the end of the embargo will bring a “North
    Americanisation” of the Cuban culture that will endanger the quiet
    transition wanted by the Havana?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “This will not be possible. Cuba was a colony
    of Spain and then emerged as a nation with a strong identity. Cuban
    culture has a considerable strength and originality. Cubans are Cuban. A
    normal relationship, though, with the United States would be totally
    natural. There are cultural ties, there has been a traditional
    relationship between the American and Cuban people despite the
    conflicting relations between the two governments. Clearly our culture
    will protect our identity because it would not make any sense for, after
    a long struggle of 50 years, Cuba to finish with an economy controlled
    by US multinationals or by any other country.”

    euronews: “The other big diplomatic front for Cuba is the European
    Union. The negotiations for a cooperation agreement opened in 2014. Cuba
    is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean with which the EU
    has not signed a bilateral agreement. How are the negotiations going?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “They are going well, at the usual pace in
    negotiations of this nature. I feel that some progress has been
    accomplished, I feel there is a better understanding in Europe on how
    the EU-Cuba relations could develop. I regularly hear EU officials say
    that negotiations could be completed in the short term. But the European
    Union, obviously, should make its own decisions with regard to some old
    policies which have no real impact anymore, but are irritating from a
    legal point of view. I feel that if we manage to find a common ground in
    some issues then things could move quickly.”

    euronews: “Do you think this understanding with Europe will arrive
    before the end of the embargo? Will this agreement lead to the end of
    the so-called Common Position? Let’s explain briefly what this is: the
    EU policy adopted in 1996 that links the dialogue with Havana to
    improvements in human rights and liberties.”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “It is difficult to know when the US blockade
    against Cuba will end. The United Nations General Assembly, the African
    Union, the agreements of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
    countries and the European Union have demanded that the blockade be
    immediately and unconditionally removed. The developments in the
    American society will ultimately determine the pace of that process, so
    it is difficult to make any comparisons on this matter. Indeed, almost
    nobody remembers today the so-called Common Position. The preconditions
    established by this policy are clearly a thing of the past now, because
    from 1996, Cuba has signed agreements or statements with virtually all
    the governments of the European Union which just prove contrary to the
    unilateral sense and preconditioning intended in that old document, well
    known to have been produced hastily and with clear political motivations.”

    euronews: “The reforms have sped up since 2011. But only 21% of the 313
    original measures have been implemented, the other 79% are still in
    progress. Why this slow pace? For example: in 2015 fewer private sector
    workers were registered than in 2014.”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “I am not sure the source of this information.”

    euronews: “It is a document of the Cuban Communist Party.”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “Yes, but this document does not say that 21
    percent of policies have been implemented. It says they have been
    completed in a manner that has fulfilled the objectives that were
    proposed over that 21 percent of decisions of economic and social
    nature. It seems to me that the process is going well. I am not sure
    that your data in relation to the decrease in non-state workers is
    accurate. Actually there has been a significant growth of workers who
    work in small businesses or in other areas outside the state economy.”

    euronews: “By the way, which model is inspiring Cuba to combine some
    capitalist measures and markets with a state planned system within a
    hermetic political status quo? Is it China or has Havana its own formula?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “There are different experiences in the world,
    different references. The Cuban model is and must be necessarily
    original. We pick up the best experiences, we study other socialist
    processes and also other development processes in other countries in
    order to make our own melting pot, our own model based on our own
    experience and our own priorities. So it is true that it is a model that
    considers some market economy elements, but preserving a socialist economy.”

    euronews: “The dialogue opened with the US and the EU on internal
    reforms seems to have had a moderate impact in the human rights issue.
    Why are non violent Cuban citizens, like the Ladies in White not allowed
    to protest freely?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “The fact that we are developing a socialist
    economy does not imply in any way any restrictions on the possibility of
    working on the basis of common economic interests, developing economic
    partnerships through joint ventures.

    “About the Cuban political model and the human rights it is true that
    there are different perceptions. But I have to deny that people like the
    ones you have mentioned can not protest peacefully, in fact they do it
    quite frequently.

    “I should also add that it is true that we may have differences in our
    respective visions about human rights. For me, human rights are
    universal and indivisible. The human rights issue is submitted to a high
    politicisation and the existence of double standards. Unfortunately this
    happens quite often in the debate on this matter around the world and
    some media also have biased views on this matter.

    “For me, for example, the right to employment is a fundamental human
    right. What would half of the young people in Spain who have not access
    to a job think about this? For me it is a fundamental human right. I
    also think that economic, social and cultural rights are not merely a
    laissez-faire, but the governments are directly responsible to provide
    them. These rights are indivisible and can not be separated from the
    political rights and civil liberties.

    “We have mentioned the American democracy in relation to the issue of
    the blockade and the real will of the voters. Anyway, I recognise that
    there are different political models and I feel very happy and
    comfortable with the Cuban democracy.”

    euronews: “Your government has always denied the existence of political
    prisoners but many international NGOs, including some which are even
    tolerated inside Cuba , denounce that actually there are still prisoners
    of conscience. They also denounce that the campaign of intimidation and
    repression against the dissidence and opposition has not ceased. What do
    you have to say to these accusations?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “I simply refute them. First, we will have to
    agree on a definition of what a political prisoner is. If you believe
    that a person who receives payments from a foreign government to perform
    certain political activities is a political prisoner, then we have
    different opinions. In France or the United States those people will be
    considered as “agents provocateurs”. We know that some of these groups,
    that operate and are tolerated in Cuba, receive funding from European
    countries or the US government itself.

    “Very serious violations of human rights are happening in the territory
    occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base, a matter that you have not
    mentioned by the way. It is known that people have remained kidnapped
    there in a legal limbo for more than a decade, judged by military courts
    without any right to defence. They are even force-fed when they go on a
    hunger strike, under conditions that are widely recognised as systematic
    torture. It is known that some countries are somehow connected to these
    kidnappings by keeping secret jails or illegal prisons where these
    people were retained before being taken to Guantanamo. I could not
    mention any country that has reached perfection in the human rights
    issue. I do not know how the human rights would be in Europe if you had
    suffered the same conditions like those in Cuba with the economic,
    commercial and financial blockade. Or if a superpower- on the same scale
    as the US and Cuba- would try to force a regime change in Europe. Those
    are the circumstances in which my country has lived for five decades.”

    euronews: “I would like to finish with a question about the ex President
    Fidel Castro. He’s been retired for a decade now with very few public
    appearances. Is he still an inspiration for Cuba?”

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “He truly remains an inspiration for Cuba, a
    moral reference. A one in a million political and moral leadership.
    Deeply loved by our people. And he has a very active life, I am
    personally aware of his involvement in the study of some extraordinary
    problems such as food production under a global population explosion. He
    is also very concerned about climate change issues or nuclear
    dismantling. I have the privilege to be aware of his activities, his
    concerns and interest in Cuban foreign policy and count on his advice
    from time to time.

    euronews: “Minister, our time is over. We have not been able to speak
    about all the topics but I think that we managed to touch the
    essentials. In any case, Foreign Affairs minister Bruno Rodríguez
    Parrilla, thank you for answering my questions.

    Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “Thank you for this useful and pleasant moment.”

    Source: Foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla spells out Cuba’s new
    revolution | euronews, the global conversation –
    www.euronews.com/2016/02/04/foreign-affairs-minister-bruno-rodriguez-parrilla-spells-out-cuba-s-new/

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