Cuban Christian dissidents call on EU to be tougher on Castro regime
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.- Several opposition leaders in Cuba are calling on the European Union to demand “significant gestures” from the Castro government, such as the release of political prisoners, before reestablishing bilateral talks.

Oswaldo Paya, one of the most prominent Cuban dissidents, called on the EU to maintain its “common position” of demanding democratic reforms on the island.

“To abandon or weaken the common position would be to abandon the Cuban people and to encourage inconsistency and the violation of their rights,” said Paya, who was given the 2003 Sarajevo Award by the European Parliament for defending civil rights in Cuba.

Likewise, Miriam Leiva, leader of a dissident group known as “Women in White,” an organization of female relatives of imprisoned dissidents in Cuba, said, “The Cuban government must make significant gestures before the EU should decide to restart a political dialogue.”  

She made her comments as various European representatives meeting in Brussels are calling for a move towards normalizing relations with the Castro government.

Talks between Europe and Cuba were suspended 15 months ago, when the EU sanctioned Cuba for the massive arrest of dissidents in March of 2002.  The EU decided to invite opposition leaders to its embassies in Havana on its national holidays.

“The first step towards normalizing relations should be the release of all political prisoners” in Cuba, Leiva said.  “If opposition leaders and the wives of prisoners are not invited to diplomatic receptions in Havana, they will be breaking the European consensus,” she added.  “If this were to happen, the Cuban government would be delighted and Cuban dissidents would be left absolutely defenseless,” Leiva concluded.

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