Cuba fumes at Western critics over human rights

HAVANA, Reuters

Continuing an aggressive campaign to clear its name after a U.N. censure over human rights, Cuba on Monday denounced its European critics as U.S. pawns hypocritically ignoring abuses within their own borders.

The verbal attacks included condemnation of “perfidious Albion” (Britain) for its U.S. alliance, of Germany’s failure to end the “fascist tradition”, and of current EU president Sweden as a “distinguished pawn” of Washington.

The comments on an evening state TV program attended by President Fidel Castro followed tirades Friday against Latin American nations who did not back Cuba at the U.N. Human Rights’ Commission.

Friday’s attacks by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque on Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica and Guatemala have sparked a diplomatic furor around Latin America. Costa Rica’s senior diplomat in Cuba returned home in protest, diplomatic sources said Monday.

Last week’s U.N. vote, which Cuba had sought to avert with an unprecedented diplomatic offensive, censured Havana for “repression of the political opposition” by 22 votes to 20.

Local dissidents saw the vote as recognition of the jailing and harassment they face for opposing Castro’s one-party communist system, and say the irate reaction is a smokescreen.

State journalists and officials began Monday’s program with condemnation of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government for aiding U.S. diplomatic efforts to condemn Cuba.

“Perfidious Albion,” legislator and commentator Lazaro Barredo said, was playing second fiddle to Washington. “There is no difference between Tony Blair and George Bush,” he added.

London’s hypocrisy, he said, was evidenced by its arms sales, support of sanctions on Iraq, mistreatment of immigrants, rights’ abuses in Northern Ireland, and inability to eradicate such problems as sexual abuse and drugs.

Belgium came under fire for violent police tactics.

Spain, state newspaper director Rogelio Polanco said, had demonstrated double standards by voting against Cuba.

“What human rights can Spain talk about when there is so much unfair distribution of wealth in its own country?” he said, listing a series of Spanish social problems.

Another senior Cuban state journalist, Renato Recio, took aim at Germany and France, who also voted against Havana.

Referring to Germany’s immigration and racism problems, Recio said the Berlin government had failed to stem “the bad tradition of fascism,” while the union of East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall had created a nation of unequals.

France, he added, had lost its cultural identity.

“Really, it is sad to observe, in this developed Europe with an ancient culture, the loss of identity, a habit of abuses of human rights inside each one of these nations, and especially the complicity with the hegemonic power (the United States) leading the world to debacle,” Recio added.

The TV program, a nightly spot billed as a round-table debate but basically acting as a mouthpiece for the Castro government, interspersed comments with images of violence, unemployment and other social problems in Europe.