With a few outstanding exceptions like Vaclav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia, Europe's leaders have a deplorable history of painting a smiley face on Cuba's police state.
Not one of them would willingly live under a 50-year dictatorship. Yet faced with the abuses they would never tolerate within their own borders, they have tended to make excuses for the repression, systematic denial of civil liberties and coercive measures used by the Castro brothers to ensure the survival of the longest-lived tyranny ever seen in the Western Hemisphere.
Anyone who still has illusions about the nature of the Cuban regime need only read the State Department's latest human rights report, issued last week. It is a depressing, 12,000-word chronicle describing the many and varied ways by which the state continues to deny Cuba's citizens basic human rights.
Through it all, Europe has taken a markedly soft diplomatic approach to Cuba. Yet last week's 509-30 vote by the European Parliament to condemn Cuba for the death of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo certainly represents a marked change from the tendency to look the other way when it comes to the Castros' totalitarian behavior.
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