Represión – Cuba – Repression

US downplays EU's lifting its Cuba sanctions

US downplays EU's lifting its Cuba sanctions
Posted: 21 June 2008 1116 hrs
Sean McCormack

WASHINGTON – The on Friday downplayed the European Union's
decision to lift its sanctions on Cuba, even after a White House
official a day earlier called it disappointing.

"The US and the European Union share common objectives in Cuba: freedom,
democracy and universal human rights," State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack said.

On Thursday, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said
Washington was "disappointed" at the EU decision, which he said should
have come after human rights conditions improved in Cuba.

McCormack refused to describe the US reaction as disappointment, saying:
"This is a tactical difference.""From our consultations … we
understand that the European Union will set human rights benchmarks for
its dialogue with the Cuban government," including the release of
political prisoners, respect for civil and political rights and freedom
of information for all Cubans.

"These benchmarks send the right message about what is important: the
need for the Cuban government to change the way it treats its citizens,"
McCormack said, adding the EU was expected to announce its conditions
for normal relations with Cuba next week.

EU foreign ministers took the decision to lift Cuba sanctions in
principle late Thursday on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.

The move, which is to become official on Monday, is a largely symbolic
gesture as the sanctions have been suspended since 2005.

They were imposed in 2003 after Cuba jailed 75 dissidents.

In Cuba, the EU decision greatly disappointed opposition groups who had
campaigned for the European sanctions to continue until Cuba made real
strides toward democracy.

Former president Fidel Castro was also not pleased by the EU decision,
which in a newspaper commentary he branded "a great hypocrisy," since
the it comes only days after a "brutal" immigration law was passed in
Europe that makes immigration a crime punishable with up to 18
months in prison.

Castro, 81, also slammed the EU's sanctions lifting decision because, he
said, it is conditioned on human rights progress and democratic reforms
in Cuba.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey on Thursday cautioned US friends
and allies to "be cognizant of not taking actions that would appear to
give additional legitimacy" to the Cuban regime.

Dissident groups in Cuba on Friday said six more among them were placed
under arrest in Matanzas, 100 kilometers (63 miles) east of Havana,
Dissident groups have been warning that since , 77, took over
from his ailing brother Fidel in February, they could appreciate no
easing of the relentless of the communist regime. – AFP/vm

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