Check out this interview with Ricardo Alarcon Quesada, "Vice President" of Cuba and "President of Cuba's National Assembly", from Alexander Cockburn's digital rag CounterPunch. It is damning. Zap is not only kissing Castro's ass, he's trying to get the rest of the EU to do it too.
Landau: Specifically, vis a vis Europe. Initially, when Cuba jailed the dissidents in 2003, the European Union responded very critically, going along with the U.S. position, and now the EU is about to resume friendly resume friendly relations.
Alarcon: Formally, we always had economic and diplomatic relations with European countries. It was rather childish what the EU did. Unfortunately, following Spanish government advice, the EU followed the American line on Cuba. Even on the Helms-Burton law. Europe at first complained to the WTO about Helms-Burton and then negotiated and reached what they called an understanding with Washington. They withdrew their complaint.
And on May 2004, in the U.S. plan for Cuba, Bush announced that the U.S. will examine on a case by case basis, country by country, in terms of implementing Chapters 3 and 4 [punishing countries and companies trading with Cuba] of Helms/Burton more efficiently.
They forgot their commitment to Europe to eliminate or change those chapters and instead declare they will implement them more thoroughly. No complaints, no protests from Europe in what is tantamount to a U.S. slap in Europe's face. With news of the dissidents' arrest [Cuba arrested 75 anti-government activists and charged them with working for the U.S. government against Cuba in March 2003], the Europeans had an opportunity to protest against the "illegal" arrest of people not only in Cuba, but throughout the western world. I refer to widespread torture and the violation of habeas corpus and other legal principles. Europeans behaved as accomplices to these policies as did on U.S. policy toward Cuba. Then they took some childish steps like refusing high level contacts with Cuba. Some countries ignored that decision. Another step: eliminate cultural exchanges. Last year, the Havana book fair was dedicated to Germany. At the last moment, the German government, following the European position, withdrew from the fair. In spite of that, many writers, publishers and artists from Germany came to Cuba.
And they added another step. They would invite the so-called dissidents to their official, diplomatic functions like national holidays and so-on. In other words, they tried to insult us. Not to have high level or important contacts with the Cuban government and to put those people [dissidents], those American agents, at the same level as legitimate Cuban authority.
Our answer was simple. We cut off contacts with the embassies here. We said we are prepared to wait the necessary time. On a personal basis, I enjoyed this period. It's a burden to attend these diplomatic functions like receptions and diplomatic dinners if you have work to do. Of course, we continued as before normal functions with African, Asian and Latin American embassies in Havana. But now the Europeans realize it was nonsense and are changing. But more important, I said that Europe had followed Spanish advice. That was when Mr. Aznar headed the conservative government in Spain. In March, Spaniards elected a new government, which withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, and proposed other progressive steps on women's rights, etc. And regarding Cuba, the new government openly said it wanted to change the Aznar policy. The socialists have a more respectful and friendly approach. That was the source of Europe's new position. Let's hope the EU will follow the new Spanish counsel. By the way, it's as if we're still a Spanish colony, which we're not. But I think we've turned the page. I hope the Europeans have matured and will not repeat that nonsense.