During their plenary session in Brussels this week, Members of the European Parliament expressed disapproval for the insensitive and inappropriate statement made by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. This follows the overt challenge to the gaffe-prone Juncker by his own Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom who publicly rejected her boss’s fawning comments about the major human rights abuser.
Polish MEP Marek Jurek, who knows from experience what it means to live under a totalitarian communist regime, took the floor to make it clear that the European Parliament distanced itself from Juncker’s remarks “which have been the cause of strong protests.” Speaking with dignity, Mr Jurek, a former Speaker of the Polish Parliament, declined to speak ill of the dead dictator, preferring rather to focus on Fidel Castro’s many victims.
The Polish MEP called on European Parliament President, socialist Martin Schulz, to invite colleagues to stand for one minute of silence – a regular practice in the EP – as a mark of respect for the thousands of Cubans who disappeared or were murdered by state forces during over five decades of repressive rule by the Cuban Communist Party, led first by Fidel Castro and then his brother Raul.
Despite resounding applause by Mr Jurek’s MEP colleagues, endorsing his sentiments, President Schulz, himself known for his partisan and authoritarian chairing of Parliament, refused to concede this simple gesture of respect for the many victims of the Castro dictatorship. Mr Schulz, at least, will soon be a thing of the past in Brussels, having lost his own Castro-like bid to cling on to power. The pressure is mounting on Mr Juncker to likewise quit the scene.