STRASBOURG, France – All political parties within the European Parliament on Wednesday condemned the death of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and all but the left demanded that Havana immediately release all its political prisoners.
Zapata died two weeks ago after mounting an 85-day hunger strike to demand that authorities acknowledge his designation by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.
Rather than becoming embroiled in their differences with regard to the policy that Europe should follow with Havana, the bulk of the lawmakers who took part in Wednesday’s debate in Strasbourg preferred to send a clear message supporting freedom and the rights of Cubans.
“No more will we permit a person who fought for his rights and those of everyone to die in a Cuban jail or in any other spot without raising our voice strongly and firmly demanding that he be saved,” Spain’s Luis Yañez said on behalf of the Socialist caucus.
Along the same lines, Spaniard Jose Ignacio Salafranca of the center-right European Popular Party emphasized that his group’s principal aim when it asked for a debate on Cuba was for the European Parliament to be able “to lift up its voice to condemn the death of an innocent man and to express its solidarity with those who in Cuba are fighting, living and dying for their freedom and their dignity.”
Speaking for the Greens, lawmaker Raul Romeva emphasized that “independently of the opinion of each person on Cuba,” Zapata’s death “is a fact that deserves condemnation” and it is a reason to call for “the release of the detained people.”
The stance was similar among all the groups represented in the European Parliament, with the exception of the Unitary Left coalition, for whom Spaniard Willy Meyer spoke.
Although he lamented the death of Zapata and recalled that it is the responsibility of the Cuban goverment to look out for the health of the prisoners, Meyer denounced the “instrumentalizaqtion” of human rights and criticized the fact that the European Parliament did not at the time condemn last June’s military coup in Honduras.
Meyer said the European Union should normalize relations with Havana and abandon the so-called Common Position now regulating the 27-nation bloc’s ties with the communist island.
That point was the only one that on Wednesday divided the members, with conservatives defending the Common Position – approved in 1996 on the initiative of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar – while the center-left in the body once more called for its modification, just as Spain’s current Socialist-led government is pushing for.
The resolution that the Parliament will approve on Thursday avoids speaking directly of the Common Position, with an eye toward achieving approval with a very broad majority.
Spain’s secretary of state for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido, who was in Strasbourg to represent Madrid in its capacity as current holder of the EU presidency, also refused to go into detail on the matter.
Instead, he focused his speech on the need for the EU to “raise its voice” over any violations of human rights, such as those occurring in Cuba, and he insisted on the importance of “political dialogue” with Havana to try to improve the situation of the Cuban people and the imprisoned opposition members. EFE