Torture in Cuba
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R350m Cuba deal sparks row

May 24 2012 at 10:31am

By Shanti Aboobaker


A controversial R350-million "economic assistance package" SA plans to

give to Cuba sparked heated debate in Parliament on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the portfolio committee on trade and industry

ratified – by a single vote – an agreement entered into after

Jacob Zuma visited the country last year.

The deal includes a R100m "solidarity grant" – which will not have to be

repaid, in addition to a loan of R250m.

The loan includes R40m to purchase seeds – of which R5m must be spent on

SA seeds – and a further R210m in tranched loans.

While the ANC cited Cuba's solidarity with the liberation struggle in SA

as reason enough to justify the package, opposition parties highlighted

Cuba's record and said the money could have been better

spent on pressing needs at home.

Trade and industry portfolio committee chairwoman Joan Fubbs (ANC) said

the deal consisted of three parts, the first of which was the R40m in

aid to buy seeds, "to feed the people there – to grow things".

The second part was the R100m solidarity grant, "And may I say that

raised such a furore. Solidarity! Yet you hear it all the time in the


The last "facility" was R210m in credit lines "and these are a loan,

actually. We're not talking of a grant. A loan – which is expected to be

repaid to South Africa".

"And I do think… we need to remember those who remembered us and

supported us, in our hour of need. And that is why this House now sits

today, under the constitution of South Africa."

But DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said:

"Cuban law limits of , association, assembly, movement

and the press. Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of systematic

human rights abuses in Cuba, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment

and extrajudicial executions."

If the ANC wanted to "betray its history" of standing for democracy, it

was free to do so, but "this Parliament should not".

"If the ANC wants to support then it should use Chancellor

House money to do so. It should not make South Africa pay for its

friendship with the Castro regime," Hill-Lewis said.

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