Photo Source [La Prensa]
Spain’s King Felipe VI has said that Cubans must choose their own future, but that change cannot be imposed from outside. He was speaking during the first ever state visit by a Spanish monarch to Cuba.
Addressing a dinner which he was hosting for the Cuban President, he underlined the need for Cuban institutions to represent all citizens.
King Felipe said that Cubans must find in such bodies “adequate respect for the integrity of their rights, including the ability to freely express their ideas, freedom of association or that of assembly.”
The Spanish King said that a lesson drawn from history is that evolution, adaptation and change are inevitable. “Nothing remains frozen in time, and whoever resists its passage loses the opportunity to collaborate in the design of that future that is already being born or, even more, that is already here,” he observed.
Such changes, he added, “cannot be imposed, they have to be born from internal dynamics. But in the same way that a change that does not emanate from within the social and political forces of a country cannot succeed, it is equally true that the change will not bring consensus and wellbeing if it does not represent the will of the citizenry.”
In his remarks Felipe VI described Spain’s experience of change, highlighting how its 1978 constitution was based on agreement, negotiation, consensus and reconciliation.
The Spanish monarch also indicated that Spain looked forward to playing a role in Cuba’s economic growth. “We want to help generate opportunities for economic and social improvement,” he said, noting that development is achieved “through laws and regulations that allow entrepreneurs to successfully carry out their projects that ultimately generate profit and contribute to the well-being of the entire society.”
During the visit the King, who was accompanied by Queen Letizia, met with representatives of many of the 260 Spanish companies based on the island and stayed at the Spanish run Hotel Iberostar Grand Packard, which is blacklisted by the US for being owned by Gaviota, a military-linked Cuban enterprise.
The visit was preceded by the announcement by the Spanish government that it was introducing legislation protecting its companies from any notice being served on them for ‘trafficking’ in expropriated assets under Title III of the US Helms Burton legislation (Cuba Briefing 11 November 2019).
Responding, President Díaz-Canel defended the Cuban system saying that its aim was to achieve greater wellbeing for its people. He stressed that Cuban society was being renewed, is evolving and advancing while preserving its traditions and values and defending its rights. “We are guided by clear principles of independence and sovereignty with the certainty that it is a path towards greater wellbeing for our people,” he said, adding that it was a path chosen by Cubans of their own accord.
He said that in order to understand Cuba, its dreams and what Cubans do, it was necessary also to understand all that the “unfair US blockade” had condemned them to.
He thanked Spain for its “clear and public support” against what he described as “the unjust sanctions and unilateral extraterritorial coercive measures imposed on Cuba by the United States” which he said had done so much damage to the Cuban economy and commerce.
During the visit, accompanying Spanish ministers held bilateral discussion on a range of issues including human rights. In addition to paying a courtesy call on the former President Raúl Castro, the King met with representatives of civil society including private entrepreneurs, independent journalists and cultural representatives. He did not meet with dissidents.
An association framework agreement between Cuba and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Aecid) was signed for the period 2019-2022 in the presence of the Spanish King and Cuban President. The €57.5m (US$63.5m) arrangement is for improving productivity, sustainable development and the effectiveness of the Cuban Administration with delivery through NGOs, autonomous bodies and Aecid.
The Spanish media reported being briefed by both the Government and the Royal household that the visit should not be interpreted as a support for the Cuban regime. “Cuba is part of the Ibero-American family and one does not choose the members of his family or stop interacting with them because you do not like them,” a diplomatic source was quoted by El Pais as saying. The visit took place at the time of the 500th anniversary of the foundation of Havana, an event they said that the King of Spain could not miss. Spain is Cuba’s third largest trade partner after China and Venezuela, and the leading foreign investor.
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