Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who is of Czech origin, highlighted the latest project of Cuban Oswaldo Paya, who recently unveiled the programme of non-violent transition of Cuba to democracy, in International Herald Tribune (IHT) earlier this week.
Havel and Albright said about Programa Todos Cubanos (Programme for All Cubans) that it was an excellent road map for Cuba. Havel and Albright said that the programme had arisen from a discussion among 12,000 Cubans living both in Cuba and abroad.
“The Program for All Cubans, and the national dialogue from which it sprang, is an extension of the Varela Project, a remarkable model of an indigenous, grassroots effort to bring about democratic reform. More than 10,000 Cubans - overcoming a culture of fear and intimidation - signed their names to a petition calling for a referendum on free elections, freedom of expression, free association, free enterprise and the release of all peaceful political prisoners,” they wrote in IHT.
“To date, more than 25,000 people have signed the petition despite a government crackdown on people who organized and participated in the effort. Nearly 50 people remain in Cuban jails for collecting signatures. This crackdown came despite a provision in the current Cuban constitution providing that citizens may introduce legislation in the National Assembly by collecting 10,000 signatures,” they added.
“Paya was to receive an honorary degree for his remarkable work to help transform Cuba from a totalitarian dictatorship to a constitutional democracy, but the Cuban government denied permission for him to leave the country to receive this honor. This was not the first time Paya had been denied the right to travel. Indeed, the same fate befalls thousands of Cubans every year,” Albright and Havel wrote in IHT.
“This particular incident is noteworthy because it happened just one week after Cuba was elected to the newly created United Nations Human Rights Council - a body charged with promoting and protecting human rights. One basic human right is the freedom to leave and return to one’s own country at will,” they added.
“The program guarantees Cubans the rights to worship and express themselves, including the right to criticize their government. It would guarantee the right to travel freely, own private property and engage in commerce. The 170-page document also outlines a fair electoral process and allows for the peaceful reintegration of Cubans living abroad into Cuban life and society,” Albright and Havel wrote.
“We have worked to lift the oppressive weight of totalitarian, Communist systems, and we understand the importance of solidarity for Cuba’s democrats offered by people from free countries. To support emerging democracies, the international community must support the courageous individuals in those countries who take tremendous risks to advance democratic reforms. Paya and his Christian Liberation Movement deserve and desperately need the support of the international community and the UN Human Rights Council,” they added.