Human Rights and
International Democratic Solidarity


Promotion of the Political Opening in Cuba


A Dutchman is the winner of the 2019-21 Engaged Diplomacy in Cuba Award

Bastiaan Engelhard, Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Cuba from August 2017 to January 2022, was the winner of the seventh edition of the Award for Engaged Diplomacy for Human Rights in Cuba 2019-21. He was nominated by referents of the San Isidro Movement, the Center for Coexistence Studies and prominent human rights activists and independent journalists. Since 2003, after Cuba’s black spring that began 19 years ago, and thanks to the participation of Cuban colleagues in this democratic exercise, 15 foreign diplomats were recognized by CADAL for their humanitarian work in Cuba. Engelhard is the second Dutch diplomat to receive this award.

Julio Llopiz - Luz Escobar - Bastiaan Engelhard

The Dutch diplomat with journalist Luz Escobar and artist Julio Llópiz, visiting their apartment while the 14ymedio contributor was prevented from leaving her home and had surveillance by the political police at the door of her building..

In the first days of February 2022, CADAL invited colleagues in Cuba to recognize the human rights work of foreign diplomats in Havana who completed their mission between January 1, 2019 and January 31, 2022, and through this innovative democratic exercise to award the seventh edition of the Award for Diplomacy Committed to Human Rights in Cuba.

The objective of this award is to recognize the work of diplomats accredited in Cuba whose performance has been characterized by providing recognition, support and encouragement to Cuban democratic actors and their efforts in the defense of human rights and political pluralism.

Different groups and democratic referents of Cuba who participated in the nominations did so for four diplomats from three different countries. Dutch diplomat Bastiaan Engelhard obtained by far the most nominations, which were accompanied by the respective rationales by colleagues from Cuba. The other nominees were two Czech diplomats and one American.

Regarding Bastiaan Engelhard's work, independent artist Iris Ruiz, of Movimiento San Isidro, said: "One of the most legitimate supporters from a personal commitment to democracy and respect for human rights. He provided support to activists and independent journalists even in the most complex scenarios, such as house imprisonment, circumstances in which he was present even in the houses where activists were imprisoned in the complex days of April and May 2021. He also mediated and echoed the claims for cultural rights and free expression of artists and intellectuals before the Cuban government, and showed his personal concern in each case of arbitrariness in relation to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the San Isidro Movement".

For his part, Dagoberto Valdés, from the Center for Coexistence Studies in Pinar del Río, pointed out that Bastiaan "carried out his diplomatic mission in Cuba totally committed to the defense of Human Rights for all Cubans without distinction. He met, accompanied, and assisted numerous activists of the Cuban civil society. He established direct and effective communication with independent journalists, opponents and civil society groups. He worked systematically and effectively with representatives of the civil society in Cuba. He has cultivated a large group of friends on the island".

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, spokesperson for Arco Progresista and the 2016 Ion Ratiu Award, noted that "His open, systematic and intelligent engagement with human rights activists, cultural actors and the pro-democracy community made the difference in these last years."

Reinaldo Esocbar - Yoani Sanchez - Bastiaan Engelhard

14ymedio office with journalists Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sánchez.

From independent journalism, Reinaldo Marcial Escobar Casas, from the media portal 14ymedio, affirmed that "We nominated this diplomat because in the midst of the persecution of civil society activists and independent journalists, Bastiaan visited them in their homes to support them and find out how to help".

Likewise, Camila Acosta Rodríguez, from Cubanet, pointed out that "He was one of the diplomats in Cuba who was most supportive of activists and independent journalists. He periodically communicated with several of us, invited us to the residence or embassy for activities or closed meetings, and even visited some colleagues when they were under arbitrary house arrest and police surveillance to, in this way, show his solidarity and let the Cuban regime know. He was one of the few diplomats committed to human rights despite political and diplomatic pressure from the Cuban dictatorship".

Upon learning of the award, Bastiaan said he was very grateful and honored with the nomination: "I am very grateful to all the people and the NGO CADAL for the nomination for this prestigious award. Each one of them works hard for freedom in Cuba. Not only for the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and artistic freedom, but also for the freedom to create an initiative independent of the state, to form a new foundation or to protest in the public space. To enter and leave one's own country freely. These are not privileges, these are universal rights, enshrined in laws and treaties, but unfortunately often not respected. We live in a world where we must fight for these freedoms. Every day, and especially today. In Cuba, I have met leaders and people committed to expand the civic space. People who love their country. I have a deep respect for them and it has been an honor to be able to collaborate on behalf of the Netherlands which has human rights at the core of its foreign policy. Each one of these people fills the hope for a free and better Cuba. But we still see with sadness how arbitrary detentions continue, how people are leaving their homeland, how people are prohibited from leaving their country, how people are imprisoned or under house arrest for expressing themselves. The hope continues for a more tolerant Cuba with dialogue and respect for the diversity of ideas".

Bastiaan Engelhard holds a master's degree in International Economics and Economic Geography. Between 2017 and 2022 he was Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Havana. He previously held diplomatic functions in Mozambique, Brazil and Central America. He also worked as a political counsellor at the Delegation of the European Union in Guatemala.

Bastiaan is the second diplomat from the Netherlands to receive this award. In its second edition, 2009-2010, it was awarded to Caecilia Wijgers together with a colleague from Sweden, Ingemar Cederberg, and another from Germany, Volker Pellet. In its seventh editions, between 2003 and 2021, 15 diplomats were awarded for their work committed to human rights in Cuba, one of them anonymously. CADAL also awarded the Chilean diplomat and writer Jorge Edwards, author of the best seller "Persona Non Grata", for his pioneering work in providing support and recognition to dissident intellectuals in the early years of the Cuban revolution.

This initiative of CADAL recalls the humanitarian gestures of several foreign diplomats during the military dictatorships of the Southern Cone and the importance of international solidarity in the face of the abuses suffered by people living in countries governed by repressive regimes of fundamental freedoms.

For more information on the Award for Diplomacy Committed to Human Rights in Cuba, please click here.


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