Saturday, May 10, 2014

Remembering Project Varela's Importance to Cuba 12 years after first signatures turned in

Today is the 12th anniversary of Project Varela an initiative based on respect for the rights of persons. - Sayli Navarro, over twitter May 10, 2014
 
Regis Iglesias, Oswaldo Payá and Tony Díaz on May 10, 2002

 It was twelve years ago today that a small contingent of Cuban activists and human rights defenders marched up to the Assembly of Popular Power in Havana, Cuba to turn in 11,020 signatures of Cuban citizens proposing an initiative for human rights reforms based in existing Cuban law that was and is called Project Varela. Over twitter today Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo wrote: "On 12th anniversary of the first delivery of Project Varela our tribute to the brave Cuban citizens who led the initiative." She also invited in another tweet to use the hashtag #ProyectoVarela today.

Activists on their way to the Assembly of Popular Power with petitions
 On May 9, 2014 Regis Iglesias Ramírez, spokesperson for the Christian Liberation Movement based in Spain, posted a video that outlines the extreme nature of the governing regime in Cuba, and the challenges faced by the Cuban democratic resistance in their nonviolent stand for human rights and democratic reforms titled "The people sooner or later will have to impose their determination":
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Project Varela was an important step in the auto-liberation of the tens of thousands of Cuban citizens who signed it and that is its most important legacy. However, two other of the many important things that it generated are that:
1) Following decades of successfully muzzling the voices of most Cubans and maintaining a propaganda offensive domestically and internationally that gave the impression of near unanimity with the regime's political project was finally broken. Tens of thousands of Cubans risking everything had said they wanted change.

2) Cuba's dissident movement portrayed as fragmented and ineffectual had managed to do what no other dissident movement had been able to do outside of Poland and that was to create a mass mobilization around clearly defined objectives within the existing constitution under Articles 88 g and 63 that placed the dictatorship on the defensive.
Fidel Castro's response was not only a wave of terror and repression but also of misinformation claiming in an interview with Barbara Walters that "Yes they [Cubans] have the right to petition, but not to change the Constitution." Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on October 13, 2002 in a formal and public response to Fidel Castro clarified the objectives of Project Varela:
Besides the right to carryout the petition, the current Constitution in Cuba reflects the rights for which Project Varela seeks assurances in law.We publicly clarify to Mr. Fidel Castro that Project Varela does not request a change in the Constitution, but rather carrying out changes in the laws so that such rights that are in the Constitution are complied with and that the decision be taken by the sovereign people consulted in a Referendum.
On March 18, 2003 a large number of Project Varela petition organizers were arrested and sentenced in summary trials to long prison terms. Prior to that in June of 2002 the Castro brothers steamrolled through their own mandatory petition drive making the Cuban Constitution unchangeable with regards to its communist nature.
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas reviewing petitions
Twelve years later, now in exile in Miami after long years in prison, Tony Díaz Sánchez observes over facebook that: "The only bad thing that Project Varela has is that 12 years after its legal filing, it is totally valid."
Project Varela Activists back in the day
 Eduardo Cardet, member of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Cuba in an interview with ACI Press that: "There are many people who are still signing it. That is why it remains still valid today because it adjusts to the Cuban reality where nothing has changed."
The regime in Cuba has not changed but Project Varela marks a clear before and after in the will of the Cuban people to express their desires for legal reforms to ensure that human rights are respected at great personal risk to themselves.

Long live Project Varela! Justice for Oswaldo and Harold. The time for the referendum is now.

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