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Monday, August 29, 2011

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas: Better Yet, Let's unite together for our rights

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

A proposal by Representative David Rivera of the United States Congress that would prohibit Cuban political refugees to travel to Cuba until five years after their arrival to that country has generated great debate. To defend all of the rights of Cubans and among those, the right to enter and leave their own country freely is not a matter of political position; it is the vocation, determination and reason of being of our Movement. For this we reject the proposal by this congress.

But I do not deny that Mr. Rivera is addressing a real problem and a situation that justly deserves an analysis, a debate and conducted for the good of the Cuban people, of which the exile is an inseparable part. But also with respect to the North American society, that with a great sentiment of solidarity, has received and continues to receive many Cubans. We cannot forget that these Cubans that have arrived through various channels of refugee programs , through the lottery, family reunification, risking their lives at sea or “staying” for some occasion, look for a new life of freedom and opportunities that are denied to them in their own country.

Without trying to be a judge, because I am a part of this society, I call on the reflection of the responsibility of everyone in this situation.

The political refugees are Cubans who emigrate because they are persecuted here in their own country and this should not deprive them of the right to return to see their family and the country that they had to leave because of this persecution. Is the punishment that the communist regime imposes on them not punishment enough, that they should also be punished with the denial of seeing their loved ones even if it is only for a few days and under surveillance? All Cubans who emigrate should have the same rights.

That which is not a right, but an attempt against that right, is to obtain political refugee status from lies and deceit, whether from here or when arriving in another county or also from goodwill but sometimes ignorance of those who are granting this status. The defense is permitted and is legitimate for everyone looking for a new life in a new land, but not at the cost of falsifying or faking the condition of political persecution or inventing oneself or fabricating oneself a history of dissidence so as to later reappear or return in a real carnival in an exhibition of opportunism.

I say this in defense of the sacred cause of the fight for liberty for Cuba that is being embodied and discredited by some. I say this in vindication of thousands of true fighters for human rights that suffer persecution in Cuba, jail and even giving their lives generously for the cause. I say this in defense of those that with pain must abandon their country on account of the harassment of their families, for having dedicated themselves with authenticity to the cause of liberty and for other circumstances, as in Cuba many are persecuted and not only the dissidents.

The politically persecuted that solicit it should continue to be welcomed as political refugees by the United States and other countries. We remember that many Cubans cannot come to Cuban because the government of Cuba denies them this right. Otherwise, I urge that people not use dangerous paths or those that risk lives to emigrate.

We demand the end to the persecution that ultimately occurs at the societal level, by means of totalitarianism that oppresses all Cubans. For this reason, any Cuban trying to escape or looking for liberty and a new life. It would be cruel to deny them this opportunity. For this reason, the Cubans that are already outside of Cuba or that have arrived in the United States or any other country, should not be deported.

Otherwise, and with respect, we remember those who support or promote the law proposed by Mr. Rivera, some exiled, possibly with the best intentions, supported the designation of the status of politically persecuted to all Cubans that came to other places or claimed that the path of exile was the only legitimate one in the face of the oppression in Cuba.

But we also call attention to the inconsistency of those that drive this falsely harmonious cultural exchange between the ideological and political apartheid and the denial of the rights that exist in Cuba and the inconsistency of those only speak to promote tourism and business travel as supposed methods of achieving change. This current can turn into an element of ‘change-fraud,’ which is change without rights, a method that is imposed already in Cuba and from the outside against the right to rights for the Cuban people.

Because of this it is necessary to remember that:

This issue that we are discussing today has originated from, is manipulated and exported, and now and always exploited by the totalitarian regime against its own Cuban people who are the only victims.

To explain further: It is a problem created by the regime that denies freedom and the rights to its citizens and has converted life into a prison. A regime that manipulated the problem like a regulated safety valve, with all of the resources of totalitarianism, the disadvantages of Cubans, the culture of fear and deftly handled and no less cruel, the desire of Cubans to find a new life. A regime that in this way has exported Cuba’s drama and which is unfolding in a Cuban exile that longs for his country, maintains its Cuban roots and that heartbreakingly suffers along with Cubans here; the worst punishment that can be imposed on a Cuban is to separate him from his family and his land. Thus the coming together and communication between family members becomes a vital necessity.

A regime that ruthlessly exploits this situation and, while continuing to deny the right of free entry and exit to Cubans, imposes on the exiled a tax to see their palm trees and pay a ransom to kiss, hug and help their family and friends within Cuba, those who the regime treats as hostages.

Let’s not allow this contradiction to be artificially moved to the heart of the people. Let’s reflect and debate these subjects and get to the bottom of these contradictions between government and people: the totalitarian regime denies all Cubans freedom and many others their rights including, the right to freely enter and leave their own country.

God wants us to find the adequate behavior for a just solution and not for erosion that will eventually divert us, divide us and face Cuban against Cuban.

Our suggestion is; 

A solidarity campaign for the rights of Cubans to freely leave Cuba without restrictions or time limits, without goods and property being confiscated, without being identified or discriminated against, without permission or invitations or letters of release, for the right of all Cubans to freely enter Cuba without being extorted, without time limits, without asking permission and with all the civil rights and with respect for Cuba and all of the rights for all Cubans living within and outside of Cuba. 

Let us run this campaign so that the people believe, so that the world believes. 

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement

Havana, Cuba, August 21, 2011

Original Spanish:

Monday, August 22, 2011

CUBA: Amnesty International calls for an end to intimidation against the Ladies in White

Cuba’s ‘Ladies in White’ targeted with arbitrary arrest and intimidation

22 August 2011

The Cuban authorities must end their intimidation of a group of women campaigning for the release of political prisoners, Amnesty International said after 19 of the group’s members were re-arrested yesterday.

The latest detentions took place yesterday in and near the south-eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where the women were due to march silently and pray for the end of political imprisonment.

Over the last month, the “Ladies in White” (Damas de Blanco) and their supporters have repeatedly faced arbitrary arrest and physical attacks as they staged protests in several towns in the region.

“The ongoing harassment of these courageous women has to stop. The Cuban authorities must allow them to march peacefully and to attend religious services as they wish,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

The latest arrests took place as “Ladies in White” gathered in several locations to make their way to a planned march at the Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba.

Eleven of the “Ladies in White” gathered yesterday morning at the home of a supporter in the town of Palma Soriano. A crowd of some 100 people, including police, officials and government supporters, surrounded the house for several hours.

When the women attempted to leave, police pushed them and pulled their hair before forcing them into buses. They were driven a few kilometres away where they were transferred to police cars and dropped near their hometowns in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín.

Police also surrounded the house of Tania Montoya Vázquez, another “Lady in White” from Palma Soriano for several hours yesterday, preventing her and two fellow protesters from leaving.

Five other “Ladies in White” who live in the city of Santiago were arrested before they could reach the Cathedral and were held in police stations for several hours. It is believed that they have all been released.

Beginning on 17 July, groups of the “Ladies in White” have gathered on Sundays to stage silent protests and attend mass in Santiago de Cuba and several nearby towns.

The “Ladies in White” and the “Ladies in Support” (Damas de Apoyo) are a nationwide network of activists in Cuba that have recently escalated their peaceful protests in eastern provinces. In Havana and elsewhere, they have repeatedly suffered harassment from Cuban authorities for their peaceful protests.

In central Havana on 18 August 2011, 49 “Ladies in White” and their supporters were prevented from carrying out a protest in support of their members in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

In 2003, Cuban authorities rounded up 75 of the group’s relatives for their involvement in peaceful criticism of the government.

The 75 dissidents were subjected to summary trials and sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International considered them all to be prisoners of conscience, and the last of them were finally released in May 2011.

The “Ladies in White” and “Ladies in Support” continue to peacefully protest for the release of others who they believe have been imprisoned due to their dissident activities.

“It is unacceptable for the government under Raúl Castro’s leadership to perpetuate a climate of fear and repression to silence ordinary Cubans when they dare to speak out,” said Javier Zuñiga.