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Spanish MEP on EU-Cuba relation-building

Spanish MEP on EU-Cuba relation-building
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Maria Pineiro, euronews: “Luis Yáñez, Spanish
Socialist member of the European Parliament, in its euro-latinamerican parliamentary assembly… earlier this month you travelled to Cuba with your wife on a tourist visa but you couldn’t get in. Could you tell us what happened? What explanation did Havana give you?”

Luis Yáñez, Spanish Socialist MEP: “None. There was no explanation given then or afterwards, when I got to Havana’s José Marti Airport and showed them my entirely valid passport and equally valid tourist’s visa. I was going to have a few days’ rest with my wife, but in the end I couldn’t enter the country. The authorities told me, literally, that I’d have to take the FIRST plane back home.”

euronews: “Can what happened to you be interpreted as a refusal by Cuba to talk, that it is not ready to sit down at the table for dialogue?”

Yáñez: “I don’t interpret this expulsion as a personal affair but rather as a decision taken at the highest level of Cuban politics. They know perfectly well who I am. I believe it’s a gesture to tell the Spanish EU presidency, and the European Union directly, what lines not to cross. Cuba today is in the process of closing in on itself. It’s almost a resistance to the death, a kind of entrenchment by the country’s regime. The national economy is going very badly, the human rights situation is still unchanged — very bad — therefore they are very afraid of foreign influence, of contact from abroad.”

euronews: “Why does Spain consider it so important to open up dialogue with Cuba?”

Yáñez: “Because Spain considers that fifteen years have passed since the EU adopted its common position on Cuba in 1996, and that now is the time to think about it again, to review this common position, and make an effort to establish new terms with Cuba — a dialogue about the EU’s
relations with it. I believe Spain is really interested in Latin America and Cuba, and I believe Spain deserves a gesture of trust for having taken this initiative. It’s an enormous task but we must make the effort.”

euronews: “Why is the EU willing to talk to countries like North Korea or Iran and yet has such a reluctance to do the same with Cuba?”

Yáñez: “The reticence is the same. The dialogue with North Korea and Iran is very, very difficult. Everybody knows that. In addition, with those two countries there is the subject of nuclear energy and the possible building of atomic weapons, and so the questions are very different. In Cuba’s case, Europe has never refused to talk; there were lots of trips, such as those by former development commissioner Louis Michel. He went there several times last year and two years ago. So the dialogue was never interrupted. But a lot more still has to be done. And Cuba must also be asked to make an effort.”