Cuba, far from the revolutionary utopia many once portrayed it to be, remains one of the most oppressed nations in the world. An absence of democracy, ruthless repression of the media and appalling human rights abuses have continued to blight the country since Raul Castro took the reigns of power from his brother Fidel in 2006. But recent developments have given a glimmer of hope for the Cuban people.
Yesterday negotiations between the Cuban authorities, the Spanish government, and the Catholic Church (which often gets a harsh press when it comes to human rights issues) resulted in a promise for 52 political prisoner releases – the largest multiple release in years.
In response to the news, dissident activist Guillermo Farinas (left) ended his hunger strike. He had been refusing food for 130 days since fellow activist Orlando Zapta Tamayo died after himself hunger striking for 85 days.
Perhaps more significantly still, the move was openly welcomed by the US and Spain, the latter asking the EU to soften its common position on Cuba in response. This is an opportunity not to be missed. A warming of relations now –whilst no giving to much ground – may encourage Raul’s regime to make further advances concerning human rights.
The EU and US should work together to decide concrete concessions to hand Havana in response to key milestones: freeing journalists, allowing dissent and accepting freedom of religion being three such starting points.
Cuba’s 11 million citizens are still deprived their basic freedoms. But there are now signs of hope.