Castro, dissidents chide EU for "hypocrisy" on sanctions issue

Fidel Castro Friday added his voice of condemnation of the European Union for the "discredited way" in which it lifted sanctions against Cuba, saying he "despised" the "huge hypocrisy" of the move.

"At my age and my state of health, one does not know how long life will last, but I want to express my condemnation for the huge hypocrisy this decision implies", Castro, 81, wrote in a new article published on the Cuban official website "Cubadebate."

The European Union foreign ministers agreed on Thursday to lift sanctions on Cuba in spite of deep divisions within the 27- member bloc about the regime's human rights credentials.

But although they didnt put any condition to restart dialogue with the island, they agreed to review the decision in a year.

They also asked the Havana regime to "improve the human rights situation", which for the EU would mean the "unconditional liberation of all political prisoners, including those who were arrested in 2003" and which led to the sanctions now lifted.

In addition to making Castro angry, the move brought condemnation and cries of hypocrisy from his very own critics.

Vladimiro Roca, one of Cuba's best-known dissidents and leader of the illegal Social Democratic Party, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the EU's move "confirms once more that, with some notable exceptions, the EU is following a hypocritical policy exclusively concerned with its economic interests and not about Cuba entering the circle of the democratic nations of the world."

Castro, who turned over the presidency to his brother Raul earlier this year but still keeps a strong position of influence on the Caribbean island, wrote that he was angered because Europe was demanding "of Cuba, in the name of human rights, to grant impunity" to dissidents who are "trying to hand over our homeland and our people to imperialism, complete with bound feet and hands."

Castro said the EU decision "will not carry any economic consequences" for the island.

Unlike the trade and investment embargo imposed by the US on the communist island just off its coast nearly 50 years ago, the EU sanctions were largely symbolic.

They included limits on high-level government visits and the role of EU diplomats in Cuba's cultural events.

The EU move risks placing Brussels and Washington on a collision course.

The US on Thursday opposed any moves to ease sanctions on Cuba, saying that the reforms introduced by the new Cuban president are merely "cosmetic."

The end of sanctions would give legitimacy to a dictatorial regime, a US state department official said, and countries should not signal that the "continued oppression of the Cuban people is any more acceptable now than in the past.", acording to dpa.

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