15 May 2024

Why is the UK funding Cuban authoritarianism?

By Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat

Unbeknownst to many of us, the UK has effectively funded human rights abuses for more than 40 years. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Yet it is still the truth. The UK taxpayer has funded the brutal, oppressive regime in Cuba.

The Communist regime has more than 1,400 political prisoners currently imprisoned. Political opponents are regularly subject to torture and extrajudicial killings. Since July 2021, 1,905 people have been detained and dozens have been forced to work at labour camps.

The dictatorship is also in full support of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. It has only deepened its ties and military cooperation with Russia since Putin’s assault. Cubans have the blessing of the regime to become paid mercenaries for Russia – with an estimated 5,000 taking Putin’s blood money. Moreover, Cuban representatives have consistently voted in the United Nations against measures designed to help Ukraine.

Instead of taking the Cuban regime to task, successive UK governments have seen taxpayer money fund the continued repression of the Cuban people.

The Paris Club, a group of major creditor nations including the UK, gave the despotic state billions of dollars in loans. Loans that have been used to ensure the continued grip of the regime. Most of these loans will never be repaid as the Club, in their infinite wisdom, decided to forgive and forget nearly $9bn of debt.

Even after that, Cuba continues to refuse to pay its debt. The negotiated settlement included $500m of annual repayments which are not being met.

There is no question that these debts have been used to by the authoritarian regime to continue its campaign of terror.

What’s worse is that the EU has been actively paying Cuba since 1988. More than $300m has been given straight to the regime and its outrider organisations. It is estimated that the EU is currently funding 80 projects in Cuba at a cost of nearly €155m. Every single one of these projects is run by organisations with close ties to the regime. The UK taxpayer will have paid a great deal of money into these funds during its time in the EU.

The regime’s continued clampdown on human rights and outright refusal to dismantle its oppressive grip on the Cuban people is being partly bankrolled by Western cash.

Normally, you cannot put a price on people’s lives, but the UK and EU seem only too keen to have condemned Cubans to life under Communism. We know that Cuba has not invested in its citizens or its democracy. Ordinary people are getting poorer while the regime’s elite grow fat off the payments that states such as the UK has offered up.

Cuba’s Communist dictatorship is no friend of the UK or its allies. We must stop funding it.

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Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat is the Secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.