Cuban Dissidents Left Out of Spanish Embassy Celebration

Fernando Ravsberg*

Cuban dissidents used to attend Hispanic Day receptions during the Aznar government while the rest of society declined the invitations. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — The Spanish Embassy in Cuba celebrated Dia de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Day, or “Columbus Day” in the United States) on October 12 with a reception in which no dissidents, opposition bloggers or anti-Castro journalists were invited, despite the event involving more than a thousand Cubans – among them intellectuals, religious leaders, artists and even members of the military.

The reaction abroad was immediate. The website of Miami’s Radio Marti stated that “Spain’s ruling Partido Popular (PP) government was acting like a bad democrat by not fulfilling its promise to invite Cuban political opponents to the Spanish Embassy in Havana on the occasion of Dia de la Hispanidad.”

During the government of Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004), a series of sanctions were applied against Cuba following the [2003] arrests of 75 dissidents on the island. This action then triggered the “guerra de los canapes” (the couch war), whereby European diplomats began inviting Cuban dissidents to their receptions; while no other wished to attend.

Regarding the issue of Cuba, Spain’s ruling Partido Popular has adopted a stance that is much less confrontational than when it was in the opposition. Photo: Raquel Perez

Spain, under Jose Luis Zapatero’s “Socialist Workers Party” (PSOE), from 2004 to 2011, was the first European country to stop inviting opposition figures. It returned to the practice of receiving the rest of Cuban civil society and politicians at its events, with some of the island’s most important cabinet ministers even attending. This caused the socialist PSOE to receive heavy attacks from the conservative PP.

An article that appeared in an anti-Castro webpage in the US implied that the position of the Spanish diplomats has to do with the trial of Angel Carromero, the PP youth leader who was involved in a traffic accident in Cuba that led to the deaths of Harlod Cepero and Oswaldo Paya (the most important leader of the Cuban opposition).

This also puts in doubts the sincerity of Spain’s People’s Party and its democratic credentials when the article affirms that the support it provides to the dissent movement “might only be for show, without a firm conviction to promote democracy in Cuba.”

It adds that “the decision of the government of Mariano Rajoy offends all of us who are convinced that it’s worth supporting Cuban democrats without bowing in the least to the demands of an illegitimate government like that of Castro’s.”

These days the PP doesn’t enjoy the greatest sympathy from the anti-Castro movement; indeed Carlos Paya, the brother of the deceased leader, accused them of entering into a pact with Havana.

As he wrote in his Facebook page: “We demand justice and an end to the silence. Those who conspired to kill Oswaldo and Harold now include those who have agreed to hide the truth even though they know full well what happened.”

(*) An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by Cartas Desde Cuba.