Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Project Varela: Fourteen Years Later

Remembering a historic day 14 years ago

May 10, 2016 is the 14th anniversary of 11,020 Project Varela petitions turned in, in 2003 an additional14,384 petitions & in 2016, 10,009 more petitions
Fourteen years ago on May 10, 2002 in the article "In Time for Carter's Visit, Cubans Petition Government" the New York Times documented a historic moment in the space of six paragraphs:

"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 delivery of the petitions seemed timed to coincide with the visit by Mr. Carter, who made human rights a leading issue of his presidency. Not everyone in the dissident community supported the move. Some had rejected the petitions because the proposed referendum would be carried out by a political system they consider illegitimate.
President Castro made no mention of the drive during a speech tonight addressing another issue that arose in advance of Mr. Carter's visit."
The Varela Project did not end that day but 14,384 additional petition signatures were turned in 2003 and an additional 10,009 in 2016.  This citizen initiative remains active as does the legitimacy of its demands for human rights reforms and nonviolent change in Cuba.
Regis Iglesias, Oswaldo Payá and Tony Díaz on May 10, 2002

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