Foreign Minister Westerwelle commented as follows in Cologne today (12 April) after talks with the Cuban human rights activists Berta Soler and René Gómez Manzano:
“I am pleased that Berta Soler and René Gómez Manzano have benefited from the recent easing of travel restrictions for Cuban citizens. I was keen to use the visit to Germany by the two activists to hear first-hand about the difficult human rights situation in Cuba.
Championing Cuban civil society is a key element of our relations with Cuba. We will expand our cooperation with the Cuban Government to the extent that further steps are taken to open up the country.”
As co-founder and spokesperson of the Ladies in White opposition movement, on 23 April Soler will be able to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded to the group back in 2005. After the current trip to Germany, Soler will travel on to Panama for a regional seminar for human rights defenders organized by the Federal Foreign Office.
René Gómez Manzano, who has been calling for the defence of political prisoners since the 1980s, spent many years in prison himself. As a lawyer, he is – among other things – the president of the association of independent Cuban lawyers and is fighting for the independence of the judicial system in his country.