Thursday, October 17, 2013

Words of Rosa Maria Paya at the Iberoamerican Vanguard Summit

After the following presentation the youth attending the Iberoamerican Vanguard passed a measure in its final minutes on (page 5) referencing the worrying human rights situation in Cuba and recognizing the citizen's petitions as recognized in Cuban law called for the government to hold a plebiscite. The minutes will be presented to the XXIII Summit of Heads of State at the Iberoamerican Summit.  A copy of the original text is reproduced at the bottom of this blog entry.

My dad used to say that rights have no political color, or race, or culture. Nor do dictatorships have a political color. They are not right or left, they are only dictatorships . These are the words of Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Cuban opposition who died victim of an attack a little over a year ago, together with 32-year old opposition leader Harold Cepero . And it is that the violence against the opposition and repression against all Cubans, especially those with an alternative expression has increased noticeably in the past year.

Cubans suffer the weight of the myth created by the mega-operation of intelligence of exportation called Cuban Revolution, that has turned murderers like Che Guevara into global youth icons. These young people, who with very good intentions, naively serve the propaganda of the totalitarian regime in Havana, while Cubans have to live enduring that many of our Latin American brothers still think:
- that in my country, education and health care are free and of good quality, when the excuse of our meager salaries , and when the level has dropped alarmingly and professional teachers have left the classroom in search of better living conditions; when hospitals are deteriorating rapidly and scarce medicines and physicians, in part because of poor working conditions and partly because the government exports and exploits them massively , as merchandise , and those left on the island cannot cope.
-that my country hunger has been eradicated, when the average Cuban earns less than a dollar a day, and a bottle of cooking oil costs two dollars and does not even have the right to say that he is poor.
-that my country is the land of the free when its been more than 60 years that Cubans are not participating in free and pluralistic elections.
-they are guaranteed the rights of citizens, when Cubans living outside, exiles or emigrants, are all banished because their few rights are not recognized, and they live in fear that the government deny entry and are unable to attend, for example, the funeral of their mother, and when all media are controlled by the government, and Internet access is not a right.
But Cubans are tired , Cubans want change. Over 10 years ago, more than 25,000 Cuban proposed a legal reform project called the Varela Project, for a plebiscite to be carried out and ask the people whether or not they want changes in laws that guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom for nonviolent political prisoners, private enterprise and free elections . The Cuban constitution states that if more than 10,000 people support a legal proposal , then the government is constitutionally obliged to respond.

For over 10 years the Cuban government has violated its own constitution and the universal declaration of human rights, and does not respond to the call for plebiscite of its citizens, who, breaking the culture of fear and taking the risks of repression from State Security, have put their name, address and identity number on a legal proposal and have told the government we want real change.

We expect your solidarity so that in this Iberoamerican Summit the Cuban government is questioned about holding a plebiscite and it be invited to comply with its own law and to respond to their citizens' direct appeal.

But we not only expect your solidarity for a altruistic and fraternal gesture with the Cuban people, that deserves a transition to democracy, we expect your solidarity because we consider that the totalitarian dynastic government, which keeps the group in power in Cuba, is a threat for the democracies of the whole region.

We are seeing it in the alarming level of Cuban government interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. Here are two governments that are not legitimate, because what happened in April in the land of Bolivar is far from being a fair and transparent process, and because in Cuba it has been 65 years since free elections were last held. However, Raúl Castro, who came to power by dynastic inheritance, is the current president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and most of the world's democracies recognize Nicolas Maduro as president.

On the other hand, a disproportionate Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for promoting "solidarity movements with the Revolution" on the planet, and creates spy networks like the Wasp Network in the United States, and the infiltration of intelligence services that apparently controls public administration in Venezuela and other ALBA countries.

We see how some Latin American countries after 10 years have divided societies surrounding populist governments, whose common denominator is the attempt to perpetuate itself in power and closeness to the Cuban dictators. The latter, after quite a few attempts, have come to reject the option of violent seizure of power in the region by guerrillas and terrorism. Populist phenomena, sometimes managing some measures aimed specifically at the poorer classes, have taken advantage of the corruption of previous governments that did little to eliminate inequality, poverty, crime, or to improve access to health and education. They are populist movements who mostly have similar levels of corruption and end up restricting freedoms, ranging from disrespecting private enterprise to excessive control over the media.

But Latin America does not have to debate between savage capitalist neo-liberalism, at a time characterized by appeasement to the United States, and populism nuanced with totalitarianism influenced by the regime in Havana. That does not have to be the future of our region. So I think that during these three days, as the young Iberoamerican vanguard, we face the challenge of looking at the citizen before power, the human being who lives and suffers from power, when it is not in the service of society, but that fragments and sickens society to perpetuate or enrich itself.

Another alarming example of the danger posed by the continuity of the regime of no-rights in Cuba , run by a military-economic leadership is the smuggling of merchant ships with fully operational arms, ammunition and freshly exposed when the authorities of the Canal we visited yesterday discovered a North Korean ship that had left Cuba loaded with undeclared arms and with a destination still unknown, breaking the national security of a country like Panama , violating several United Nations resolutions on the North Korean dictatorship , and endangering innocent human lives.

What came next? The mysterious disappearance of the two key witnesses responsible in Cuba and North Korea , who could be called to testify at the UN. In late August , in another "accident" was killed along with his family Major General Pedro Mendiondo Gómez, Chief of Air Defense and the Revolutionary Air Force . While Kim Kyok Sik, of the General Staff of the North Korean Army , who had only just returned from Cuba , quietly disappeared from his post in late September. His whereabouts are unknown. And the crew of 35 innocent North Koreans, but also complicit in an international crime, whose captain attempted suicide, remains imprisoned in this country and who knows what terrible fate awaits their return to North Korea (perhaps their families are already being suppressed , as usual in the Kim dynasty ). The boat was a real danger, under tons of sugar it transported explosives and live ammunition, as announced by Panama 's drug prosecutor . But the Cuban Foreign Ministry, far from apologizing, lied saying that the weaponry was defensive and obsolete.

The government has not had the dignity to do, what I as a Cuban citizen, like many other free Cubans, yes I can do what the government is unable to do: apologize to the sister nation of Panama and the whole Latin American community of nations represented here.

The Cuban government has just lost its last show of authority with this international crime, in addition to the countless abuses committed with impunity against citizens in Cuba, whether or not protesters, with the increase in violent repression against members of the opposition. Two days ago State Security raided the home of Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a blind leader of the opposition, and kicked his wife. A few months ago they assaulted Werlando Leiva with a machete, solely for his civic work in our Christian Liberation Movement in favor of peaceful change.

It was State Security who threatened to kill my father, who was watching him , as they themselves confessed in one of their Twitter pages on the day he suffered the attack that ended his life . But the Spanish government validates the version of the "traffic accident” given by the same government that threatened to kill my father, while at the United Nations the Cuban mission openly rejects the recommendations of democratic countries to allow an investigation into the death of my father and to take measures to guarantee the rights of all Cubans.

Today we are waiting for your solidarity for the Ibero-American Summit to urge the Cuban government to transparency and allow an independent investigation of the facts. It's time for the regime in Havana to begin to receive international consequences for the abuses it commits. This is a way to protect the lives of human rights defenders within the island and deter the impunity with which until now the repressive state security in my country operates.

Today, I reiterate, we are waiting to receive your solidarity so that the Summit of Heads of State urge the Cuban government to take a step towards a peaceful democratic transition and conduct the plebiscite that thousands of citizens are demanding with the Varela Project. We Cubans want peaceful change, without hatred but without fear. Because as my father reminded us, like all Iberoamericans and like all humans, we have a right to our rights and to pursue happiness in the way which each considers appropriate, directing our island to prosperity and simply contributing with our honorable work to the betterment of the entire region.

The question is whether or not the Ibero American community will be on the side of the rights of Cubans and, with them, on the side of the rights and self-management of all Latin Americans. It is a question that commits to a tomorrow of a democratizing or dictatorial character. For Cubans, that future is today and for it we are fighting.

This dilemma is well beyond ideologies. The invitation is made.

God help us all

Rosa María Payá Acevedo

Octubre 14, 2013.

Original text in Spanish available here.

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