The few words that Governor Ryan spoke to us in private in the meeting with the opposition (that does exist) and the admixture of his words given to us through television does not clarify these questions. Governor Ryan clearly stated that he had an interest in other governors visiting Cuba. As if a new chapter in the comings and goings between Cuba and the United States where underway. What does not exist are the new conditions that give sense to this action. I want to call attention to this visit taking place before the Ibero-American Summit, a few days after a commission of the European Parliament visited Cuba and days before the visit of the Dutch Minister of Commerce to our country with a group of businessmen from his country. I'm not saying that there is a relation between the visits with each other, but all of them have a relation with the Cuban people. The whole world has a voice about Cuba, except we the Cubans.
Some say they want to protect us from no less than the "Cubans of Miami."
The Governor's public statements referred to "bridges of peace," with the creation of a council that would over see cultural, educational, athletic, and medical exchanges between Cuba and Illinois. He also mentioned the differences of culture and political philosophy between both governments. I believe in the sincerity of these intentions and as we have stated before, we do not favor isolating Cuba. But now we add: We reject the continued requests concerning our position regarding this "engagement" because the Cuban people are isolated by the Cuban government, its economic-political system which it imposes with all the mechanisms of control, and the mutilations or revocation of the fundamental rights of the people.
Here is the just posing of the problem: If you offer your hand to a person whose hands are tied and kept down by their jailers, this person will not be able to offer his because he cannot move them. Metaphors are always limited, and subject to various interpretations. The Christian Liberation Movement has released a document titled, "Tiende tu mano a Cuba" (Extend your hand to Cuba) were we appeal to the ethical sensibilities of governments, businessmen, institutions, and persons. In this document we explain what we believe should be done by all those who honestly care about the Cuban people. We've sent copies of this document to the European Parliament via the delegates who visited us, to Latin America via the ODCA, to the Government of the United States via US Senators who've visited, and now to the government and people of the United States via Governor Ryan. Hopefully they will all learn of this document. Hopefully it will also reach our diaspora because the moment in which everyone speaks of and offers solutions for Cuba. Including, some say they want to protect us from no less than the "Cubans of Miami." That is how they call our diaspora in the United States. Now is the time that those inside and outside state to the world with all honesty that we are one people with one sole destiny and with one determination: achieve the changes to bring liberty and democracy to Cuba.
In my reunion with the Governor I began to explain that now the topic is of isolation and that this visit - like other initiatives with relation to exchanges and investments with Cuba - demands taking a position and there is the trap. It is not we the Cubans who have to define ourselves with respect to the intentions and actions of those who want to have relations with Cuba; it is they who have to define themselves and say if they will or will not demand in this relationship the respect for the rights of the Cubans as individuals, just as they demand it in their own countries. Perhaps some would prefer not to hear our voice, but we will not be silent. I end with the last words of our document "Tiende tu mano a Cuba":
``Tiende tu mano a Cuba, pero exige que se desaten nuestras manos atadas. Háblanos de ti, pero exige que nos quiten la mordaza. Párate a nuestro lado, pero exige que estemos de pie y no de rodillas''.
"Extend your hand to Cuba, but demand that our bound hands be untied. Speak to us about yourself, but demand that they remove our gag. Stand at our side, but demand that we stand up on our feet and not on our knees."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas is the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and he lives in Havana
Translated by John Suarez, Free Cuba Foundation