British MPs call on UK and EU to improve relations with Cuba

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In the same week that the Bush administration has adopted a much trumpeted plan to force regime change in Cuba , 200 British MPs from all parties have now signed a Commons motion calling on the UK and Europe to improve their relations with the island.

Early Day Motion 1959 entitled ‘EU Common Position on Cuba,’ tabled by Ian Gibson MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group on Cuba, places a third of MPs firmly at odds with the Bush administration. This comes just days after US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, announced a series of new measures aimed “to respond” rapidly to force regime change in the event of the death of Cuba’s President Fidel Castro, who turns 80 in August.

The EDM contains an explicit rejection of the Bush administration’s “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba”, which is recommending that the White House steps up its pressure on both Cuba and the international community to support its plans for the eventual overthrow of the Cuban system. These plans, documented in the Commission’s report released on Monday 10 July include the creation of an $80m (£43m) fund to “promote democracy” in Cuba and promote unrest by destabilising the islands economy.

Ian Gibson MP says: “Apart from being a clear breach of the UN Charter, it is a course of action that will be rejected by the vast majority of Cubans. The outcome will almost certainly be conflict in the island. Such an event would destroy peace and stability in the Caribbean and will severely affect the interests of European powers with interests there. Cuba poses no threat to any other nation and its right to self determination should be protected.”

The Commission Report falls short of recommending US military action in Cuba but contains recommendations which “for reasons of national security and effective implementation” are contained in a seperate “classified annex”. Observers believe that this suggests the US has concrete plans for a military option if the ‘peaceful transition’ does not take place.

Analysts say the problem is that the Commission disregards the fact that the present Cuban government is extremely popular and that the majority of Cubans will reject any US prescribed plan for their future. Conflict is seen as highly likely as a result.

Director of the UK's Cuba Solidary Campaign Rob Miller commented:

“The whole Commission Report reeks of hypocrisy. The US talks of allowing the Cubans to make up their own minds about what government they want, but then it proposes all kinds of internal meddling and outside coercion to ensure that the only option available is a government that suits Washington. The fact that the Bush Plan is going to use economic bullying to punish other countries that do not support the plan is completely unacceptable and should be opposed by everyone in the UK. We are still extremely concerned that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will not disclose the content of meetings they had in November with Caleb McCarry, the US 'Cuba Transition Co-ordinator' when he was in the UK to lobby the British government to support US plans for regime change in Cuba. Our Government should cease to meet with people who are intent on breaking international law and using coercion and military intervention to overthrow other governments"