Page last updated at 04:25 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 05:25 UK

Castro condemns EU's 'hypocrisy'

Fidel Castro (l) talks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (17 June 2008)
Fidel Castro made a rare TV appearance earlier this week

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has lashed out at the EU's decision to lift sanctions against his country, calling it "an enormous hypocrisy".

He said the move was "disparaging" because it was conditioned on human rights progress in Cuba.

The ailing 81-year-old said the measure came just days after the EU passed a "brutal" law that could jail illegal immigrants up to 18 months.

The EU lifted the sanctions against Cuba in principle on Thursday.

The decision is expected to come into formal effect on Monday. The EU said its move was aimed at encouraging change in Cuba, following Fidel Castro's replacement by his brother Raul in February.

The decades-old US trade embargo against Cuba remains in place.

EU warning

In an article published on Cuba's official website, Fidel Castro said he wanted "to put in writing my contempt for the enormous hypocrisy that surrounds the [EU] decision".

There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
EU External Relations Commissioner

While saying that Cuba must improve its human rights record and free political prisoners, the EU mistreats illegal immigrants from Latin America by using the new law to jail and expel them, Mr Castro wrote.

"From Cuba, in the name of human rights, they demand impunity for those [dissidents] that try to deliver... the homeland and the people to imperialism," he said, referring to the US.

The EU sanctions were imposed in 2003 in protest at the Cuban government's imprisonment of more than 70 dissidents.

Cuba's President Raul Castro pictured 13 June
Raul Castro has introduced a series of reforms since taking office in February

They included a limit on high-level government visits and the participation of EU diplomats in cultural events in Cuba.

But EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Thursday the EU would continue to monitor human rights conditions in Cuba.

"There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do... releasing prisoners, really working on human rights questions," she told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels.

The sanctions' removal is largely symbolic but still a success for Raul Castro's new government, analysts say.

Several leading Cuban dissidents have criticised the decision.

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