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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Carlos Alberto Montaner

Interviewed January 3, 2011

The policy of European countries regarding Cuba has been erratic. In the first place, there is no coherence within the European Union. It all depends on the type of government that exists in each individual country. For the democratic opposition, the dissidents in the country, it is of great support when an important international figure meets with them, and it is a great rejection when they don’t want to meet with them and instead meet with government figures or support the five jailed spies in the U.S., because that is a form of rejection. The Cuban government’s strategy is to constantly say that the opposition doesn’t exist, that the opposition has been made up by the U.S.

When an international politician, a European or a Latin American, doesn’t want to meet with the opposition, what they’re saying is that they accept the Cuban government’s version that this is a false opposition, artificially supported by the U.S., which is very negative. The European Union is a very big and complex organism made up of 27 countries in which there are very diverse political forces. However, the European Parliament, which represents the majority of those 27 countries, has awarded the Sakharov Award in defense of human rights to those who are struggling in Cuba three times, and this I think is very important. There has been support and numerous statements by the European Parliament supporting dissidence.

On the other hand, there is the matter of economic interests that influence governments, which cause these governments to have a political standpoint contrary to the principles of the countries themselves. But in this case they are subject to pressure from hotel chains that have economic interests in Cuba, some exporters that make certain deals in Cuba, which are decreasing since Cuba is a very small market that pays very poorly. So there are many problems, but in this case one cannot generalize.

Spain has had socialist governments and Franco’s dictatorship, which had very good relations with the Cuban dictatorship; Franco and Fidel Castro understood each other very well. Then, the relations between Felipe González’ socialist government and the Cuban government had its ups and downs. There were times of great intimacy and support, but there was a moment of rejection by Felipe González. I remember having had conversations with him in which he was very harsh and even supported the opposition in some way, officially receiving us in La Moncloa to clearly underline his condemnation of the Cuban government. Aznar and the eight years he spent in La Moncloa were years of very clear support for the opposition, so there is no way to generalize on this matter. And the European government that I think has helped us the most is the Czech government, amongst other things by Václav Havel’s decision, who himself was a dissident and a fighter for democracy, and he knows the importance that international support has in these cases.