Castro's Foes Feted by French; Embassy Invites Dissidents to Party

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

Castro's Foes Feted by French; Embassy Invites Dissidents to Party


Byline: Tom Carter, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The French Embassy in Havana recently put liberty, equality and fraternity on display by inviting Fidel Castro's political opponents to eat canapes and drink vintage Bordeaux at its annual Bastille Day soiree.

"The dissidents were invited. They came, and they were very happy to be there," said Agnes Vondermuhll, French Embassy spokeswoman in Washington. "They were satisfied."

The invitations to the dissidents this year were part of an effort by EU nations to protest the Cuban government's recent crackdown on dissidents.

In March, Cuba arrested 75 opposition figures and sentenced them to as long as 28 years in prison.

The Cuban government found dissidents guilty of treason after the U.S. Embassy began a concerted effort in the fall to invite Mr. Castro's opposition to the U.S. Interest Section in Havana for parties and other functions.

According to press accounts and French officials, some of Cuba's more prominent opposition figures, including Oswaldo Paya and Elizardo Sanchez, attended the Bastille Day party.

"The majority of my colleagues and myself are going to attend this celebration, not with an attitude of defiance toward the government but defending our essential right to accept any invitation we receive on civilized terms," Mr. Sanchez, head of the Cuban Comission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, told the Associated Press as he entered the embassy.

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