Sun, Dec 19, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Western countries ‘kowtowing’ to Cuba: WikiLeaks

THE GUARDIAN, LONDON

Australia, Canada and several European countries have stopped pressing Cuba over human rights in the hope of winning commercial favors from Havana, according to confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The Western governments continued to pay lip service to concerns about political prisoners and censorship, but in reality were appeasing the island’s communist rulers, said Jonathan Farrar, the US head of mission.

The diplomat made scathing remarks about his colleagues shunning democracy activists, “kowtowing” to the regime of Cuban President Raul Castro.

“The Cuban government has been able to stonewall its independent civil society from foreign visitors who have, for the large part, been all too ready to give in to Cuban bullying and give up on these encounters,” Farrar said.

He named the countries Washington considers offenders in its battle to keep an international squeeze on the island.

“The Australian foreign minister, Switzerland’s human rights special envoy and the Canadian Cabinet level minister of the Americas not only failed to meet with non-government Cubans, they didn’t even bother to publicly call for more freedoms after visiting Cuba in November,” Farrar wrote.

Canada had softened its position over the past year, he said, with newly arrived diplomats minimizing civil society contacts.

“Promoting democracy may play well in political circles in Ottawa but the Canadian government appears to have decided that doing anything serious about it in Cuba under the current regime could jeopardize the advancement of Canada’s other interests,” he wrote.

He railed against the European commission for siding with Spain — which seeks warmer ties with Havana — against more hawkish EU members.

“Their functionaries share with us their reproach of the ‘radical’ Swedes and Czechs, with their human rights priorities, and can’t wait for ‘moderate’ Spain to take over the EU presidency,” Farrar wrote.

He mocked those who claimed to push for human rights in private meetings with Cuban officials.

“The truth is that most of these countries do not press the issue at all in Cuba. The GOC [government of Cuba] ... deploys considerable resources to bluff and bully many missions and their visitors into silence,” he wrote.

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