Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cuba slams EU parliament condemnation as "cynicism"

Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:46pm IST

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba accused the European Parliament of "great cynicism" on Thursday for condemning the communist island for the death of an imprisoned hunger striker, and it vowed not to bow to international pressure over human rights.

The Cuban National Assembly said in a statement that Cuba had a meritorious record in the "struggle for human life" and it blamed the European Parliament's action on "a campaign orchestrated by powerful European media."

The elected body of the 27-nation European Union approved a resolution condemning Cuba for the "avoidable and cruel" Feb. 23 death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after a 85-day hunger strike for improved prison conditions.

His death provoked an international outcry against Cuba's government and calls for it to free its estimated 200 political prisoners. The EU parliament repeated this call in its resolution.

It also expressed concern at the "alarming state" of another opponent of Cuba's government, Guillermo Farinas, who has been on a hunger strike at his home in Santa Clara since Feb. 24.

He has vowed to die if the government does not release 26 political prisoners said to be in ill health in Cuban jails.

Cuba said the European Parliament was guilty of "great cynicism" because it said EU members had taken actions that caused poor people to die in developing nations.

"Countless lives, especially of children, have been lost in the poor nations due to the decision of the rich countries represented at the European Parliament to avoid honouring their commitments to development aid," it said.

The "unfortunate event" of Zapata's death "cannot be used to condemn Cuba under the allegation that his death could have been prevented," the Cuban statement said.

"The man refused to eat despite all warnings and the intervention of Cuban medical specialists," it said.

"If there is an area in which our country does not need to defend itself with words, because reality is undisputable, that is in its struggle for human life and not only for those born in Cuba but elsewhere, too," it said, referring to Havana's practice of providing doctors to impoverished countries.

It said attempts by Europe and the United States to pressure Cuba to change would fail "since Cubans reject impositions, intolerance and pressure in the development of international relations."

Analysts said Zapata's death was likely to have torpedoed earlier efforts by Spain, currently leading the EU, to water down the EU's common position on Cuba which includes a call for democracy and improved human rights on the island.

Cuba has said the EU's position is an obstacle to better EU-Cuba relations.

Analysts say the hunger striker's death last month has also set back efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama to improve U.S. relations with Cuba after five decades of hostility.

Cuba's communist government views dissidents as mercenaries working for the United States to subvert the island's socialist system. It has accused both Zapata and Farinas of being common criminals, saying they became dissidents to get material benefits and support from the United States.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Eric Beech)

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