South America

UK government should not reward Cuban dictatorship with trade

BY Brian Monteith   /  11 February 2019

If you’re a Foreign Office Minister and are praised by a Corbynista group, then surely you must know you are doing something wrong?

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign, part of a small constellation of closely linked far-left groups whose task it is to support communist dictatorships and parrot their propaganda, has fallen in line behind British foreign policy towards Cuba, which appears to amount to sidling up to this bankrupt dictatorship in the hope of some trade deals.

Following the first visit of a British Foreign Secretary (Philip Hammond) to Cuba in 2016, Cuban visits to the UK have been coming thick and fast.

A high level Cuban parliamentary delegation was invited to the UK by Speaker John Bercow in 2017 and had meetings with Alan Duncan, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and Baroness Hooper among others.

In November 2018 we were blessed with the first visit to Britain of a Cuban President, in the form of Miguel Díaz-Canel, accompanied by the Deputy President and the Foreign Minister. The President explained that the trip was intended as a transit stopover, but the British government had made it possible to have high level meetings with the Chancellor Phillip Hammond and Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Amazingly, a Royal Visit to Cuba is now planned for later this spring.

Of course, increased trade with Cuba is a foolish pipedream. UK exports to Cuba in 2017 amounted to only $31.6m, a tiny and wholly insignificant amount. There is little prospect of that figure growing so long as the Cuban economy remains a centrally planned basket-case – currently the state controls 90% of the economy and employs around 85% of the total workforce. The private sector actually shrank last year due to tight new state regulations and the economy is going nowhere. Sugar prices are low, food production is stagnant and tourism revenue is falling. Yet still the British Government pursues its strategy, rather than joining the US in applying pressure on Cuba to dismantle its dictatorship and free the economy.

The British government has got its strategy the wrong way round. When the Foreign Office Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan attacked US sanctions on Cuba last month, Cuba Solidarity Campaign Director Rob Miller actually praised him: “This is a very important and welcome statement from Sir Alan Duncan MP”.  The Communist politburo in Havana will certainly have enjoyed reading that.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is of course campaigning alongside other Corbynista Groups to preserve the Maduro regime. That also happens to be the line of the Cuban regime too, which depends heavily on Venezuelan subsidies and maintains some 15,000 ‘military advisers’ and intelligence operatives in Venezuela in order to prop up the regime. They are closely involved in supressing opposition to the regime and there are documented instances of them torturing political prisoners.

For the sake of basic human rights and the welfare of the people of Venezuela and Cuba we need an abrupt change in UK policy towards the communist regime of Cuba.  There should be no more rapprochement until all Cuban forces are withdrawn from Venezuela and there are genuine signs of liberalisation coming from Havana. Instead, the royal visit should be put on hold and sanctions that target the regime should be applied to put real economic pressure on Cuba’s communist leaders. Only once there are genuine signs of liberalisation and reform should there be the reward of British investment and trade.

This approach will upset the Government’s friends in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign as well as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Chris Williamson MP. That is surely a price worth paying for the freedom of the Cuban people and liberation of Venezuela from Maduro.