Saturday, May 7, 2022

Project Varela at 20: Christian Liberation Movement invites us today to West Dade Regional Library to remember when thousands of Cubans risked all for a free Cuba.

We do not forget, we do not betray our principles and values, we are consistent, without fanfare, with serene courage, with generosity, without hatred but without fear: Long live the Varela Project !!! - Regis Iglesias Ramirez, May 10, 2021 over Twitter

Oswaldo Payá, Antonio Diaz, and Regis Iglesias walk to turn in petitions

Milan Kundera, the Czech writer, in his 1999 novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting observed that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Memory provides context to unfolding events today, and helps to render informed judgements.

Twenty years ago on May 10, 2002, carrying 11,020 signed petitions in support of the Varela Project, the Christian Liberation Movement's Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and Regis Iglesias Ramirez delivered them to the Cuban National Assembly.

The Varela Project, named after the Cuban Catholic Priest Felix Varela, sought to reform the Cuban legal system to bring it in line with international human rights standards. They had followed the letter of the law in organizing the campaign.

The Christian Liberation Movement was founded by Catholic lay people in Havana in September 1988, and is part of a non-violent dissident movement that traces its origins and influences to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights that was founded in 1976.

Former President James Carter visited Cuba in May 2002 and on May 15th gave a speech at the University of Havana, where he advocated for the lifting of economic sanctions on Cuba and "called for the Varela Project petition to be published in the official newspaper so that people could learn about it."

President James Carter at the University of Havana.

Yet the dictatorship's response to the nonviolent citizen's initiative, and to President Carter's request, was to coerce Cubans into signing another petition declaring the Constitution unchangeable and quickly passed it through the rubber stamp legislature. 

The Varela Project was not presented for debate before the National Assembly, which according to then existing law drafted by the Castro dictatorship meant that it should have been debated in that legislative body. 

Today at 3:00pm at the West Dade Regional Library (9445 Coral Way) in Miami, Florida,  the Christian Liberation Movement is extending an invitation to "the struggle of memory against forgetting" and ask the rest of us to join "in this discussion commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Varela project in Cuba, including its legacy and impact."

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