Fidel Castro: EU displays 'enormous hypocrisy'

In a column published online, former Cuban President Fidel Castro criticised EU demands that Cuba improve its human rights record, whilst lifting sanctions against the nation. (Report: C.Westerheide)



HAVANA - Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, showing renewed vigor in recent days, lashed out on Friday at the European Union's decision to lift sanctions against Cuba while demanding the island nation improve its human rights record.


The ailing 81-year-old, in a brief but biting column released on the Internet, accused the 27-nation bloc of "enormous hypocrisy" and called its actions "disparaging."


"At my age and in my state of health, one never knows how much time they will live, but from now on I want to put in writing my contempt for the enormous hypocrisy that surrounds the decision," wrote Castro, who has been mostly on the sidelines since surgery almost two years ago.


While the EU nations say Cuba must improve its performance on human rights and release political prisoners, they mistreat illegal immigrants from Latin America by using "brutal methods" to expel them, wrote Castro, who remains head of the island nation's Communist Party.


"From Cuba, in the name of human rights, they demand impunity for those (dissidents) that try to deliver ... the homeland and the people to imperialism," he said, referring to the United States.


The EU on Thursday voted to lift diplomatic sanctions imposed against Cuba in 2003 in response to the arrest of 75 dissidents. The sanctions were suspended in 2005, but remained a sore spot in Cuba-EU relations.


By dropping the sanctions, which only froze high-level diplomatic visits, EU members said they hoped to encourage Cuban reforms begun since Raul Castro formally replaced older brother Fidel as president in February.


Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told Reuters on Thursday the elimination of the sanctions were "a step in the right direction" but the government would not make an official response until next week.


Castro dismissed the EU's decision as having "absolutely no economic consequence for our country."


Castro's column, which touched on topics ranging from the global food crisis to global warming to human smuggling, topped off a busy week for the man who led Cuba for 49 years but has not been seen in public since a July 2006 surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment.


He had three known meetings, two with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the other with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, and was shown on television in a video of one of his meetings with close ally Chavez.


The video with Chavez showed him to be thin but animated and put an end to building rumors that he was dead or dying after not having been seen on television since mid-January.


Since his surgery, when he provisionally ceded power to Raul Castro, the government has said he is involved in policy decisions. But he has been seen only in occasional videos and photographs, and also writes newspaper columns when moved.


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