When Cuban dissidents are given the top EU human rights prize three times in the space of a few years, it sends a strong message to Havana.
This year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is being awarded by the European Parliament to Guillermo Farinas. The announcement comes just days ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting set to review common policy towards the single-party island.
The EU continues to tie economic cooperation with Cuba to its performance on human rights.
Only Spain is keen to pursue normal relations without demanding important shifts.
Dissident Oswaldo Paya was the Sakharov laureate in 2002. The movement Las Damas de Blanco was awarded the prize three years later. The laureates have consistently championed the cause of political prisoners, Farinas through hunger strikes.
Just after he got word of his prize, euronews spoke to Farinas by phone at his home in Cuba.
The 48-year-old psychologist, journalist and former soldier said: “This news should be taken with modesty and in a spirit of peaceful combat. This prize, even though it has been attributed to Guillermo Farinas, is also a prize for the whole Cuban diaspora, for all the Cuban political prisoners and all the dissidents who, right now, are fighting so that one day Cuba will be free and democratic. That’s how I see it. This prize is a collective prize for the democratic cause. I believe that on a day like this all democracies should feel proud, wherever they are in the world, and whatever their ideology.”
“I hope and I believe I’m right when I say this is a message from the European Parliament to the Cuban government that says freeing the prisoners is not enough to change Europeans’ position towards Cuba, because its laws have made possible the imprisonment of innocent people for seven years. Some of them are still in prison. These unmovable laws still exist. The Cuban government must respect the declaration of human rights in practical ways, so that democracy becomes possible, and so that fear disappears from Cuban society. Only when all that happens will Europeans be able to start changing their common position.”
“I would like to be able to travel to receive this prize. International and national public opinion should pay attention to this, because the Cuban government says it respects human rights, and there is an article in the international declaration of human rights saying that every human being has the right to come and go from his country. So we’ll see whether the government respects that.”
“This prize I dedicate in particular to Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Pedro Luis Boitel. These two martyrs died from hunger strikes in protest against the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. I dedicate this prize to all the Cubans who have died for freedom and democracy in Cuba.”