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Sunday 23 July 2017

President Higgins 'gets his point across' on human rights in Cuba visit

President Michael D Higgins at the Plaza de la Revolucion where he met with President Castro in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Maxwells
President Michael D Higgins at the Plaza de la Revolucion where he met with President Castro in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Maxwells

Ryan Nugent

President Michael D Higgins welcomed the EU's human rights involvement in Cuba in a keynote address yesterday - having "skilfully and intelligently" brought up the issue with President Raul Castro earlier this week.

In the final speech of his Latin America tour, Mr Higgins said that both capitalist and socialist ideals had effectively failed.

Mr Higgins had been under pressure to relay concerns during his trip to Cuba - after being criticised for his statement following the death of Fidel Castro.

And sources close to the President explained that without being seen to be lecturing the brother of Fidel, President Raul Castro, he managed to get his point across on a number of human rights and freedom of speech issues.

During the address, Mr Higgins referred to the new relationship between Cuba and the EU. "I welcome the annual consultations that take place in the month of June in Havana and in Brussels on the human rights conditions," he said.

"The capitalist system, the so-called 'market economy', has sacrificed justice in the name of freedom, and the so-called 'real socialism' has sacrificed freedom in the name of justice. Beginning the new millennium, this is the challenge: we want justice and freedom, Siamese twins, living and walking together."

Prior to his speech at the Colegio San Geronimo in Havana yesterday, President Higgins met with descendants of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara as he launched an exhibition on the Irish in Latin America.

Guevara - whose face is drawn on murals and T-shirts worldwide - has Irish blood, with his Argentinian-born grandmother, Ana Isabel Lynch, of Galway descent.

The President had previously met Guevara's daughter, Aleida, when she visited Galway.

Irish Independent

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