News and Facts about Cuba

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 Raul Castro
has chosen Paris for his first state visit to the . Why?
Is France going to get privileged treatment because it’s willing to
restructure the Cuban ?”

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 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 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 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
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 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 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
. 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 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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