Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cuban opposition organization, the Christian Liberation Movement, observes 30th anniversary

Cuba's liberation movement three decades later.

Thirty years ago on September 8, 1988 on the feast day of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba, a movement was born inspired by Christian teachings and the desire to be free.

The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) will observe the 30th anniversary of its founding on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 7:00pm with a solemn mass in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church located at 4497 W 1st Ave., Hialeah FL 33012. This is being done on the eve of the anniversary to avoid interfering in the celebration of the Virgin of Charity and Patron of Cuba the following day.

Regis Iglesias, the current MCL spokesperson abroad, joined the movement in its early days in 1989.
Some MCL members such as Jesus Mustafa Felipe have a long history of activism that predates the movement. Jesus Mustafa was initially a member of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights in the later 1980s and worked with Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, but after navigating through two other movements ended up in MCL in 1999, where he remains today.

Four years ago on September 8, 2014 Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement released a statement recalling their founding:
We were born there in the parish of the Cerro, one of the many neighborhoods of Havana. The background: The Circle of the Cerro. Then something more formal, The Circle of Cuban Christian Thought. This was banned and dissolved when it launched the first free Cuban publication, also prohibited, titled "People of God", proclaiming the source of liberation: when we said, "We must obey God before men", "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's, "But if God gives you Freedom, who is Cesar to take it away? "All men and women are my brothers and sisters." "We will not act violently or submit to violence," "You are my brother, I do not hate you, but I am not afraid of you."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas described how the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement, came into existence and explained how it was related to the birth of his first child, Oswaldo José.
“When our first child was going to be born, we have three children, we said that our children cannot live in a country without liberty and we are not going to another country to seek freedom. Therefore we have to fight for our children to live free here in Cuba and everyone else's children and their parents too.”    
Oswaldo José was born on February 17, 1988 and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was founded that same year. 

Oswaldo Payá Antonio Diaz, and Regis Iglesias turn in petitions
On May 10, 2002, carrying 11,020 signed petitions in support of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and  Regis Iglesias Ramírez walked with the bulky card board boxes labeled Project Varela turning them into the Cuban National Assembly. The New York Times reported on this historic event:
"Two days before a historic visit to Cuba by the former President Jimmy Carter, human rights activists today delivered an extraordinary challenge to the Communist government of President Fidel Castro in the form of petitions signed by more than 11,000 people seeking greater freedom. The petition drive, known as the Varela Project, calls for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. The signed petitions were delivered this morning to the National Assembly, after supporters painstakingly verified each signature, in the most significant peaceful effort to bring reform to Cuba in four decades. ''All of these Cubans, who with great courage and sacrifice have signed Project Varela, are the social vanguard for peaceful change in Cuba,'' said Oswaldo Paya, who led the drive. He said changes in the rights of Cubans could only be achieved peacefully.
The three activists, members of the Christian Liberation Movement, would pay a high price, along with dozens of others, for advocating human rights reforms within the existing legal frame work in Cuba. In March of 2003 both Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and Regis Iglesias were arrested and subjected to political show trials and sentenced to long prison sentences. They would spend years in prison followed by forced exile.

 Oswaldo Payá was killed on July 22, 2012 along with the movement's youth leader Harold Cepero in what appears to have been a state security operation.

Despite the killings, the movement re-organized and elected a new national coordinator, Eduardo Cardet MD.  Dr. Cardet was arrested on November 30, 2016 and has suffered, beatings, a stabbing, and since May 2018 the denial of family visits for six months and more recently the denial of phone calls.

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