In Cuba: The not-official story
The following are excerpts from a statement signed by Oswaldo Paya
Sardiñas, national coordinator for the Liberation Christian
Movement, and previously published in El Nuevo Herald. The statement was
sent from Havana by the movement's spokesman, Regis Iglesia, to Miami
activist Tete Machado, press secretary of the Information Bureau of the
Cuban Human Rights Movement.
THE VISIT to Cuba of His Holiness John Paul II should be seen not only as a five-day event but also as a turning point that surely left a mark in the soul of many Cubans.
Great hopes remain, but so do great anxiety, manipulations, and frustration regarding the supposed fruits of that visit. The Cuban government has made clear that certain spaces or gestures, such as making Christmas a holiday and other allowances to the church, were concessions on the occasion of the Pope's visit. No changes have been made in the laws or in practice to guarantee basic rights to all, including the faithful.
Cubans are denied the right to own a business, to enter freely into contracts, and to engage in any trade other than individual enterprise. The so-called self-employed, those authorized to operate a personal business, are, in practice, harassed and heavily taxed, which leads to high prices for the consumer.
Poverty grows. The existing rationing system doesn't guarantee even half of a person's nutritional requirements or a single article of clothing. The disproportion between the value of labor, wages, and the cost of living is huge.
It's a scandal that some individuals with political and military power live like barons and prepare to become the moneyed gentry in tomorrow's capitalism, all the while denying a decent future to most other people.
What's in store? Are there any other factors within Cuban society that offer alternatives? Although persecuted and not legally recognized, independent groups inside Cuba defend human rights and promote peaceful changes and democracy. They express the needs, rights, and aspirations of most Cubans; they also offer an opinion other than the government's. They offer a basic plan for the change that Cuban society needs, a plan that -- for lack of legal means and freedom of expression -- the people cannot express through the ballot box or consensus.
The Cuban government does not admit the need for an opening or the reality of its violation of human rights. Nor does it express any willingness to dialogue with other sectors of Cuban society or to entertain political and economic changes. On the other hand, the republic's Constitution -- though flawed by major contradictions and restrictions of the rights of individuals -- recognizes some spaces of freedom and participation. However, these rights are neither written into law nor respected by the authorities.
Just as soon as the Cuban government makes a commitment to the Cuban people and the world to respect constitutional rights, peaceful changes could begin in our country in line with the will of the Cuban people. Fidel Castro, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, signed the Declaration of Viña del Mar [during the 1997 Ibero-American Summit in Chile]. Its provisions on human rights have not been enforced in Cuba, nor have the document's entire contents ever been published [in Cuba].
Now that the Cuban government enjoys the status of observer at the Lome Convention and seeks permanent membership in that institution, it would be fair and respectful to the Cuban people for the government to publish in Cuba the clauses on civil and economic freedom that appear in the statutes of that convention and, secondly, vow to respect them.
It would be a major mistake and an injustice to consider the present order, which places our people at a disadvantage, as ethically acceptable. We Cubans have engraved in our minds and hearts the essence of every word spoken by Pope John Paul II -- all of them, not just some.
We ask the world to recognize that Cubans have a right to their rights, beyond any influences, ideologies, political stances, and interests. Our challenge is to lead Cuba peaceably toward reconciliation, freedom and justice. Only we can be the protagonists.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald