This message was received from Oswaldo Payá in Havana , Cuba on September 23.
NO MORE TERROR IN THE OTHER GUANTANAMO !
In the Guantanamo Province and in others, the Cuban government has commanded the police and State Security to undertake acts of intimidation, arbitrary detentions, blackmail and abuses of power against citizens who have signed a petition for the Varela Project Referendum.
The world only hears about what happens at the Guantanamo Naval Base, but we are denouncing the terror that is used against citizens, and the inhuman and degrading practices in the prisons, that occur in the other Guantanamo, the one that nobody talks about, which is all of Cuba.
(Summary of Preceding Events). The Varela Project is a citizen initiative that calls for a referendum, a first ballot, so that Cubans can decide what changes should be made to the laws, for them to guarantee the following: freedom of expression and of association, the right for Cubans to own private companies (at present only foreigners can), freedom for the peaceful political prisoners, and elections in which the voters can choose their deputies freely (the current law establishes only one candidate for each position in the National Assembly). Article 88.g of the current Cuban Constitution establishes the fact that citizens can propose a law if it is supported by at least ten thousand signatures of eligible voters.
On May 10, 2002, we presented the Varela Project to the offices of the National Assembly of People’s Power, supported by signatures, names, addresses and identity numbers of 11,020 voters. The government responded by detaining and condemning the majority of the people behind this initiative with prison sentences ranging from six to twenty-eight years. On October 3, 2003, we presented the same petition with the support of 14,384 different signatures. (See “Proyecto Varela” and “more information” on the webpage OswaldoPaya.org).
The signatures are collected on a form that contains the text of the Varela Project and the citizens’ contact information. After signature collection, a process of verification is undertaken: an activist, who did not collect the original signature, visits the citizen that signed the petition and asks to confirm his or her contact information and endorsement of the Varela Project. This verification is conducted to avoid errors and falsifications that the State Security has presented through counterintelligence efforts. (End of Summary).
At the end of last year, the State Security in the city of Cienfuegos illegally and secretly broke into the apartment of Mr. Minervo Chil Siret, one of the leaders of the Varela Project, while he was away from home. State Security agents opened two bolts on the main door and another bolt leading to a bedroom, which contained family savings and electrical appliances for the household. However, the only item stolen was a list containing several thousand signatures for the Varela Project which were in the process of being verified.
One can now understand why the State Security, starting with Guantanamo , is now summoning the voters that appear on these stolen lists to police stations. Once they arrive, they are forced and threatened in front of a video camera to lie and declare they signed the Varela Project because they were deceived or other falsities. According to testimonies, the terror and the blackmail that State Security uses against defenseless citizens is ruthless. Some give in and others do not. We hope to obtain more detailed information from other provinces, such as Pinar del Río, where similar actions are occurring.
Meanwhile, State Security in Cienfuegos and Villa Clara provinces is sending agents that pose as Christian Liberation Movement and Varela Project activists to the homes of voters who signed this petition for a referendum. At these voter’s homes, the disguised agents lie in order to confuse people with criminal behavior, with the goal of attributing these criminal behaviors to our civic movement.
This past September 18, Agustín Cervantes, a Varela Project leader who lives in Contramaestre, Santiago in Cuba , was accosted outside his home by an agitator who verbally insulted him and intended to stab him to death. Agustín was detained and freed on a bail of 500 pesos before going to trial, while his aggressor continues to be free and is seen frequently around town.
The communist regime cannot act or fight against in the field of truth. The regime fabricates lies; these lies are their only attack against the Cuban civic movement. The Varela Project campaign, even though it is legal, is persecuted. The project has witnessed various harassments, detentions, confiscations, robberies of signed documents, smear campaigns, and innumerable abuses and violations of the law. These illegal acts have been conducted by police, Security agents, judges, academics, terror brigades, and even university professors who lie and intimidate their students, but do not dare share the actual text from the Varela Project.
Why does the government act like this? Because the oligarchy wants to conserve their totalitarian power and all their wealthy privileges indefinitely, shutting the door for a different future for Cubans and neglecting all our political and civic right and our freedom. Instead, they are condemning us to poverty and oppression without hope. But our people want changes, and all those who are familiar with the Varela Project discover a path to rights, reconciliation, opportunities, justice, democracy and freedom. Change is inevitably approaching, and this is why we are being followed and harassed so desperately.
There are strong feelings and many protests from Latin American, North American, and European governments based on what is happening in Honduras, but there is also a lot of silence and complacency from these same governments when it comes to the coup d’état against the Cuban people: a people that also demand and proclaims that, “We Cubans have a right to our rights.”
Former President Jimmy Carter’s voice still lingers in the air. More than seven years ago he publicly urged Fidel Castro, here in Cuba , saying, “consider the Varela Project referendum.” The government would not dare to do so, but we will continue to fight those rights called for in the Varela Project, and for all rights for everyone, until we achieve them. God willing, the voices of solidarity with Cuba will awaken worldwide one day. Until then, we will continue our peaceful struggle for freedom, even if we have to do it alone.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement
Contact International Representatives of the Christian Liberation Movement: