Before the prisoners of the Cuban Spring had served the first six months of their unjust imprisonment, on October 3rd, 2003 we went to the offices of the National Assembly of People’s Power to ratify our petition for the Varela Project referendum. At that time, we presented the signatures of 14,384 citizens along with their full names, addresses and ID numbers on every card containing the complete text of the Varela Project.
Everything we did was identical to the first time, on May 10th, 2002, when we presented the signatures of 11,020 other citizens. The Constitution states that 10,000 citizens must support an initiative for it to become a legislative bill. At that point, we were 25,404 citizens supporting this initiative. The citizens that have supported this initiative have done it using their constitutional rights. Regardless, almost all of them have been visited and threatened by State security agents.
Not few of these citizens have been repressed, labeled, expelled from their jobs or universities and targeted by the many mechanisms of repression, surveillance and control used by the totalitarian state in every neighborhood, school, work place and every other aspect of life. Many of these citizens have been visited by impostors, meaning State security agents presenting themselves as activists of the Christian Liberation Movement, with lies and provocations. We have already exposed how these infiltrated elements have tried to distribute cards from the Varela Project containing false signatures. They are now trying even harder to distort this civic movement.
The intelligence and counterintelligence of this totalitarian state, and their political and party apparatus, use all of their media and repression resources to try to stamp out the Varela Project. Individuals from various viewpoints join these repressive forces, some overtly and others covertly, with the same mission, in a barrage of oppression. These forces, inside and outside Cuba , work together to try to silence the Varela Project.
What they want is for the Varela Project not to be talked about or mentioned, and that it be treated as a relic from the past that no longer exists.
…..Nevertheless, the Varela Project is reborn!
Why? Because through this campaign, hope is reborn. Though many seem to have forgotten, dozens of men are imprisoned, for no reason but for defending the rights of Cubans and for working intensely for the Varela Project. To silence this is to silence the honorable and sacred cause for which the prisoners of the Cuban Spring were imprisoned. Because of this, we continue and will continue this campaign.
Most importantly, the Varela Project family stands united, from within and outside of prison, from inside and outside Cuba , because we Cubans have the right to rights.
The Varela Project returns with the collection of signatures because it is the campaign for the rights of Cubans. In these times of so much maneuvering, speculation, repression, and humiliation against the Cuban people, the Varela Project says to all Cubans and non-Cubans: the only changes that we accept, and that we will fight for until they are fulfilled, are the changes that guarantee all rights for all Cubans and the release of political prisoners. This is our goal and determination, and the reason why our hope is reborn.
It is fine if the European Union establishes a dialogue with the Cuban government, but they must know that no dialogue is morally valid or of any use to the Cuban people if it does not have a clear and defined focus: the release of political prisoners and the respect for the rights of the Cuban people.
In any case, to reclaim our rights is the duty, responsibility and historic mission of all of us Cubans and not of any other nation or group of nations. However, those who draw closer to Cuba should defend our right to rights at all times; they will be friends of the Cuban people. All others are part of the drama of fear and ulterior motives that are not in our people’s interests.
Almost everyone is talking about models, new forms of socialism, or new measures. They try to pass off modifications to the prison system imposed on Cuban society as if they were real changes. They are insulting our dignity and our intelligence. Do not bother with these maneuvers, opportunisms, and pseudo-intellectual presumptions because you will not confuse the Cuban people.
You will not mislead the poor because they are aware that after fifty years, they are massively poor and will continue to live in abject poverty because their rights to freedom of expression, association, travel and to work freely and independently have not been respected. We will fight until we reclaim the rights of the Cuban people.
What the Varela Project is advocating, and will continue to advocate, is what differentiates totalitarianism from democracy, and oppression from freedom. The Varela Project is an initiative for peace and not hatred. We say to the Cuban leadership, without hatred but without fear, that with their absolute control, their privileges and affluence, their blindness and intolerance, they behave like an oligarchy toward the poor, who even in times of disaster are too afraid to denounce their poverty.
Confrontation is the result when the poor do not even dare to say that they are poor. We do not advocate confrontation; we advocate reconciliation and rights. We use the truth, and not the silence enforced by fear and lies. We say this to awaken the conscience of all, because Cuba must change now and change for real, which means: rights for all.
Cubans, let us raise our hearts and the light of hope.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas