Elizabeth Symons, the newly seated undersecretary for North America and the Caribbean, said the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair perceives repression as ``worsening'' in Cuba, and is prepared to adopt a tougher stance toward the island.
Symons declined to specify what measures Britain might take, and noted that its policy would remain rooted in the common position drafted by the European Union last year. But, she said, when London assumes the six-month rotating presidency in January, ``particularly, we'll be very keen to keep pressing'' Cuba.
After Cuban authorities -- apparently rattled by bombings of tourist facilities -- jailed a number of top dissidents this summer, the EU lodged formal objections to Havana. Two weeks ago, Symons said, the EU asked Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina to come hear Europe's complaints.
So far, Symons said, Robaina has spurned the invitation. The EU, which provides humanitarian aid to the island and is an important source of tourism, investments and cultural exchanges, has not yet considered sanctions, she said. It has, however, dispatched a human rights specialist to monitor conditions on the island.
``We are expecting a formal response,'' she said. ``I don't think it's
time for threats or retributive action,'' she said. ``Our emphasis has
been to persuade the Cubans to take a different view.'' Troubled over
Troubled over Helms-Burton
A British push on Cuban rights would restore momentum to efforts by the rightist Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar, when it held the EU presidency in 1995. The current EU president is from Luxembourg.
Britain nevertheless remains profoundly troubled by the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which aims at undercutting Cuba's attempts at economic recovery.
That law, which punishes foreigners who invest in Cuban property that
is claimed by Americans, actually ``makes it much harder for the Europeans
to take a tough line on Cuba'' said Britain's ambassador to Washington,
John Kerr, because it is seen as ``kowtowing to unacceptable
extraterritorial legislation.'' Waiving
The administration, in turn, agreed to continue to waive what Europe views as the law's most noxious sanctions, and eventually to ask Congress to exempt Europeans from a provision that denies visas to foreign executives or board members linked to the contested investments in Cuba.
Britain is confident that the U.S.-EU deal will be upheld when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a treaty on investment that requires a country to pay compensation in the event of expropriation. ``I think the situation is likely to stay on hold,'' Kerr said.
Copyright © 1997 The Miami
Copyright © 1997 The Miami Herald