Monday, June 15, 2015

The Varela Project: Cuba's Great Charter

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - Magna Carta,  June 15, 1215

Today the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is being observed in the United Kingdom and it is important to look at societies where authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships continue to systematically deny freedom and how citizens in those societies have appealed for change echoing elements of "The Great Charter." In Cuba, the Varela Project, under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers to date is the most serious challenge where more than 25,000 Cubans petitioned the regime to reform itself in 2002-2003.  This led to the dictatorship altering the constitution to prevent amendments that would reform the system, imprisoning scores of petition organizers in March of 2003, and on July 22, 2012 extrajudicially killing Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante of the Christian Liberation Movement who had led the initiative. This citizen's demand remains active and like the Magna Carta was not a single event but a process that is still underway. Below is a translated excerpt of the Varela Project.


The undersigned at the end of this text, solicit the National Assembly of People's Power to submit to popular consultation, by means of a referendum, each of the following five proposals:

That the necessary changes to the laws are made for preserving the common good and respect for universally recognized human rights and human dignity, guaranteeing citizens:

The right to associate freely according to their interests and ideas, so that they can legally form associations and social, political, economic, cultural, labor, student, religious, humanitarian and other organizations, respecting the principle of pluralism and diversity of ideas present in society.

The rights to freedom of speech and press, in a manner so that people, individually or in groups, can demonstrate and express their ideas, beliefs and opinions through the spoken and written word and by any means of communication and expression.

The laws that guarantee these rights must be implemented no later than sixty days after this referendum is realized.That an amnesty for all detainees is decreed, for those punished and imprisoned for political reasons that have not participated in actions that directly endangered the lives of others. This amnesty law will go into effect no later than thirty days after this referendum is realized.That the necessary changes be made to the laws that guarantee citizens the right to establish both individual private enterprises such as cooperatives, to develop economic activities that can be productive and of service, since they can establish contracts between workers and companies for the operation of these companies, under just conditions, in which no subject can earn income from the exploitation of others' labor.  

These new laws should also ensure respect for the rights of workers and citizens, and the interests of society. These new laws should enter into force no later than sixty days after this referendum is held.

   Runnymede, England 1215               Havana,Cuba 2002      

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