Castro Renews Formal Ties With
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005
HAVANA -- Cuba said Monday it was resuming formal ties with all of
Europe, ending a deep freeze in relations following a 2003 crackdown on
dissidents and the firing-squad executions of three men who tried to
hijack a ferry.
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told journalists that official
contacts had resumed with the Havana-based ambassadors of the Czech
Republic, Poland, Slovakia and the Netherlands, as well as with the
European Union mission. ``Cuba has re-established official contacts now
with all of the EU countries,'' Perez Roque said. Although diplomatic
ties with the European countries were never severed, high-level contacts
between Cuba and many EU members were limited for more than 1 1/2 years.
Last week, Cuba re-established contacts with eight other European
nations: France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Portugal and
Sweden. Cuba earlier had resumed formal contact with Spain, Belgium and
Relations between Cuba and Europe chilled after Cuba cracked down on the
island's opposition in March 2003, rounding up and sentencing 75
dissidents to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years.
Cuba accused the activists of working with the U.S. government to
undermine Fidel Castro's communist system, something the dissidents and
American officials deny.
European nations were also troubled by the firing-squad executions
around the same time of three men who tried to hijack a ferry to the
EU members responded by unanimously agreeing to reduce high-level
governmental visits and participation in cultural events in Cuba and to
invite dissidents to embassy gatherings - a policy that communist
officials deeply resented.
But some European nations, led by Spain's new Socialist government, say
the EU sanctions have had little effect, and pressed for a new policy
encouraging the Caribbean island to open up.
The deep freeze began melting in November as European Union reviewed
diplomatic sanctions against Cuba and the Caribbean nation began
releasing some of the 75 dissidents from prison.
Including an earlier release of dissidents for health reasons, 14 of the
original 75 have now been freed, leaving another 61 still behind bars.
The United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since
shortly after Castro took over in 1959. In lieu of embassies, interest
sections provide consular services and limited official contact.
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press