EU Orders Envoy to Cuba Back in Brussels over Controversial Letter to US President Biden

The European Union has summoned its ambassador to Cuba, Alberto Navarro, back to Brussels for explanations over signing an open letter addressed to US President Joe Biden calling on him to stop meddling in Cuba’s domestic affairs, Sputnik reports.

This past Wednesday, a group of 16 members of the European Parliament (MEP) sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asking him to fire Navarro. The main reason they cited was him signing the letter, which, among other things, urged Biden to personally ensure the lift of Cuba sanctions.

“We have received [the MEPs] letter and have requested the ambassador to come to Brussels to provide explanations [to Borrell]. In the meantime, we have asked him to provide a note detailing the matter,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The spokesperson did not specify if Borrell was considering to fire the ambassador, but the very fact fact of summoning him to Brussels amounts to a severe reprimand.

As noted in the report, Borrell himself criticized the US embargo on Cuba earlier this month during a press conference in Moscow, but the EU lawmakers were nonetheless surprised by Navarro’s seemingly independent initiative to sign a letter of demands addressed to “a government of a third country, a friend and ally of the EU, to which he is not accredited.”

Other than Navarro, the letter was reportedly mostly signed by Cuban officials and citizens.

The unusual step does not mean the EU envoy, Alberto Navarro, will necessarily be sacked or even reprimanded. But 16 MEPs, including the deputy head of the centre-right European People’s Party group, Esteban González Pons, and the vice-president for relations with Latin America, Dita Charanzová, have called for him to go.

“Navarro’s anti-US letter targeted “a friend and ally of the EU, to which he is not accredited”, the MEPs said. We consider that the current ambassador is not worthy of the high functions he holds and … we strongly request you to proceed with his immediate replacement,” they urged Borrell last week.

The EU has long-opposed the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba. It has also opposed former US president Donald Trump’s new sanctions on Cuba, which could lead to fines on Spanish tourism or French drinks firms which do business there.

More than 70 MEPs, at the time, also took Borrell to task for attacking Europe’s main ally, before the EU had even had a chance to talk Biden’s administration. Borrell’s office said he did nothing wrong, because he had merely restated an agreed EU line.

“The state department’s policy on Cuba will continue to support democracy and human rights, through empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future,” a US spokesman told EUobserver, in reaction to Borrell’s Moscow remarks.

The US-EU discord comes amid an economic crunch in Cuba caused by the pandemic, with reports of mass-scale queues for basic food and sanitary items. But it also comes amid the Cuban regime’s same old abuses, European NGOs say.

Cuba had “taken harsh steps to limit basic rights and freedoms, including artistic and academic freedom, increasingly punishing those who hold alternative views,” Lucia Argüellova, from Czech NGO People in Need, recently told EUobserver.

“Cuban authorities continue to use arbitrary detentions, inhuman treatment, threats, large fines, and imprisonment … to silence critical voices,” she said.