Cuba expels visiting politicians on eve of dissident meeting

Cuba was the target of fierce criticism from European governments after it summarily expelled two visiting politicians, one from Germany, the other from the Czech Republic, on the eve of a gathering in Havana of dissident opponents to the communist regime of President Fidel Castro.

Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech senator, and the German parliamentarian Arnold Vaatz, were seized by security agents at their hotel on Thursday and escorted to Havana's airport to fly back to Europe. The action prompted formal objections yesterday from German and Czech officials.

This latest drama came at the end of especially tense week. About 500 dissidents are expected to attend the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba. Barring a last-minute crackdown, it was due to take place in the back garden of Felix Bonne, a veteran critic of President Castro. It was described as the largest such meeting of anti-regime activists ever held since Castro came to power.

On Monday, President Castro led a march of tens of thousands through the capital to protest against the presence in the US of one of his oldest foes, Luis Posada Carriles. Mr Posada is wanted in Venezuela, increasingly a Cuban ally, in connection with the 1973 downing of a Cuban airliner . He has since been arrested and charged with illegally entering the US.

The President was fairly quiet through the week about the dissidents' meeting, which both the men had been planning to attend. Earlier in the week, Cuba also refused to allow entry to two Polish members of the European Parliament.

In a statement, the Czech foreign ministry called Cuba's action "unacceptable", adding that Havana had no interest in continuing "a constructive dialogue with the EU". In Brussels, the development commissioner, Louis Michel, called the expulsions "highly regrettable ... Even the best friends of Cuba will now find it difficult to maintain their position," he said. While most European governments have tended to look on Cuba with a slightly more sympathetic eye than the US does, relations have been tense since President Castro imprisoned 75 dissidents in March 2003. Soon after, Cuba executed three ferry hi-jackers.

Four months ago, however, the EU relaxed sanctions against the island imposed after the crackdown.

Senator Schwarzenberg told the Associated Press as he boarded plane for Paris on Thursday evening: "I did nothing against the law. They just didn't like the people I was visiting. I'm sure it's in connection with the assembly." Among those due at the assembly was Martha Beatriz Roque, who was one of the 75 rounded up two years ago. She was released by the government on medical grounds.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there