Friday 26th February, 2010
Madrid, Feb 26 (IANS/EFE) Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero has demanded that Cuba's communist government release its
'prisoners of conscience' and respect human rights following the death
of a Cuban political prisoner on hunger strike.
The death Tuesday of Orlando Zapata Tamayo resulted in the most direct
call to date on the Castro regime by Zapatero's Socialist administration.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Thursday that
dialogue with the current Cuban government is the best way to move
forward on the subject of respect for human rights on the Caribbean island.
The move closer to the Havana government and the dialogue process have
been the traditional pillars of Zapatero's diplomatic efforts toward
Cuba, but Madrid, the current holder of the European Union's rotating
presidency, is taking into account the opinions of those within the EU
who want a tougher policy toward the Castro regime.
On Wednesday, at the inauguration of the 4th Congress against the death
penalty in Geneva, Zapatero urged all states to respect 'until the last
instant the life of each and every one of their citizens'.
Although he did not name Cuba directly, sources within the Spanish
executive branch said that the phrase was specifically linked to Cuba
and to the death of Zapata after an 85-day hunger strike.
On Thursday, Zapatero was very direct in the Spanish parliament during
the inauguration of the meeting of chairpersons of legislative foreign
affairs committees of the EU member countries.
'We can imagine the suffering of the Cuban political prisoners and from
here we must demand of the Cuban regime that it return freedom to the
prisoners of conscience and respect human rights,' the Spanish premier
This is, he said, a 'fundamental demand of the international community'.
His words were echoed immediately in Madrid by the Cuba Democracia Ya
organization of Cuban exiles, who applauded Zapatero's firmness.
Spanish Socialist members of the European Parliament also Thursday
demanded the release of all prisoners of conscience in Cuba, and they
expressed solidarity with the Cuban people 'on their road toward democracy'.
At Thursday's gathering of EU lawmakers in Madrid, Moratinos said that
Madrid's 'demanding' dialogue policy with Cuba 'has its difficulties',
while hastening to add: 'does the policy of embargo and sanctions or
non-involvement with the Cuban authorities give better results?'
Orlando Zapata, 42, was one of 75 government opponents rounded up and
jailed in spring 2003 on charges of conspiring with the US to undermine
the Cuban Revolution. While some of those dissidents have since been
freed on medical grounds, more than 50 remain behind bars on the
Officials added years to Zapata's original sentence because of his
repeated protests over prison conditions.
He stopped eating in December with the aim of pressuring authorities to
acknowledge his designation by Amnesty International as a prisoner of
Last week, officials at the penitentiary in the eastern city of Camaguey
grew alarmed about Zapata's condition and transferred him to a prison
hospital in Havana, from where he was later taken to the military clinic
where he died.
Free political prisoners, Spain tells Cuba (26 February 2010)