Truce declared in `cocktail wars' between EU and Cuba

A DISPUTE over the invitation of Cuban dissidents to European embassy receptions in Havana ended yesterday, despite protests over the terms of the truce in the so-called "cocktail wars".

The bizarre diplomatic stand-off over who should drink rum punches with European diplomats concluded with EU ministers restoring full relations with the Cuban government, while pledging increased contacts with critics of President Fidel Castro.

Under the deal neither government ministers nor opposition politicians will be invited to embassy national day receptions, rendering them practically useless as a tool of diplomacy.

However, EU countries that recently abandoned Communism threatened to flout the informal advice on cocktail invitations. Cyril Svoboda, the Czech Foreign Minister, said: "We are on our territory and we can invite whomever we want." Poland's State Secretary, Jan Tuszczynski, added that if dissidents arrive at the Polish national day reception "we will not throw them out".

And both countries say that the shift in policy may be reversed as soon as June, when relations with Cuba are due to be reviewed.

Despite the comical aspects of the row, the cocktail wars became a test of Western resolve in dealing with human rights abuses by the Castro regime.

Czech politicians, including the former president Vaclav Havel, have spoken of the symbolic importance to them of being invited to Western diplomatic receptions during the years of Communist rule.

The row was sparked in March 2003 when the Cuban government rounded up 75 dissidents. In June 2003, the EU decided that its embassies should invite opponents of the Cuban regime under measures to increase pressure on the government in Havana. As a consequence, members of Cuba's opposition were invited to the British embassy in Havana to drink mojitos - a blend of rum, lime and mint - at last year's celebration of the Queen's birthday. The gesture so incensed Mr Castro that he described foreign embassies as "superfluous" and ordered his government to shun European diplomats.

After Cuba freed 14 of the 75 jailed dissidents last year, an EU working group on Latin America recommended that the policy should be dropped in favour of more discreet contacts with the dissidents and a ban on both the government and the opposition from receptions. It also suggested restoring high-level visits by European officials to Cuba, though it promised to continue to press for the release of political detainees and intensify contacts with dissidents.

That advice was taken up yesterday under a statement which said that meeting with opponents of the regime could be part of the resumed contacts.

Madrid led calls to normalise relations with Cuba. Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, argued that EU pressure had affected the Castro government and achieved the release of some dissidents. He added that contacts with opponents of the regime would intensify under the deal. "We are going to make them more intensive and regular," said Mr Moratinos. "There is no need to invite them to receptions to do this. Before, people [from the opposition] were invited but there was no regular dialogue."

The communique issued yesterday called urgently on Havana "unconditionally to release all political prisoners of the groups of 75". It also noted that the suspension of measures against the Cuban government would be reviewed before July 2005 "in the light of the evolution towards democratic pluralism and the respect of human rights in Cuba".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Membership Manager

£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Advisor / Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This position will in the main ...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the top Cosmeceutical br...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£350 p/d (Contract): Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP /...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks