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Posted August 09, 2005 by I-taoist in Cuba Human Rights

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BY OSWALDO PAYA | Miami Herald opinion

HAVANA—There are many myths about Cuba and speculation about its future. Yet its people have not had a chance to express themselves freely—and now, for the first time in many years, citizens have to opportunity to offer their opinions about a democratic transition and to show the path to the future. This is the National Dialogue.

The Varela Project’s well-known campaign for a referendum on basic freedoms has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures from Cuban citizens demanding their rights. Despite the imprisonment of dozens of its activists, this campaign continues. Cubans do not only want the rights called for by the Varela Project; they want to shape all aspects of Cuban society—social, political, economic and cultural, all controlled by the totalitarian state. Cubans want their voices heard in shaping the transition.

The National Dialogue was launched in December 2003. The following spring, Cubans both on and off the island began to participate in this process. Thousands of Cubans, in ‘‘dialogue groups,’’ have met to discuss the Working Document, which helps to frame the debate over the transition. More than 3,000 collective and individual responses have been processed by committees on the following themes: economic change, political and institutional change, social issues, public health and the environment, public order and the armed forces, media, science and culture, reconciliation and reuniting with the exile community.

Fear of change

As a result of the consultations of the National Dialogue, these committees are providing a summary of their findings to a commission that will produce a draft of the Transition Program. This document will be presented to Cubans for discussion and to help prepare for the transition.

The National Dialogue has been successful in helping Cubans overcome two great fears: first, fear of the regime, because this process is not conducted under perestroika; and second, the fear of change. For Cubans, being able to engage in the dialogue despite official repression and intolerance is psychologically liberating. It is also helping to dispel the myth that a transition will mean catastrophe for Cuba. In fact, not only Cuba’s impoverished majority, but also Cubans from all social classes are participating in the dialogue, including some individuals in comfortable positions in the regime.

The National Dialogue is demonstrating the desire for a transition free of chaos, revenge, primitive capitalism, interventions or displacement of families from their homes by previous owners, without destroying what is positive. Above all, Cubans want freedom and their basic rights. They never will embrace a system that denies them the inalienable right to freedom.

Those who think that Cubans prefer living without freedom see Cuba through the warped prism of ideology or other interests, or simply see us as less human. The National Dialogue clearly demonstrates that we Cubans have the right to those basic rights.

The National Dialogue has also shattered the fallacy that for the sake of social benefits Cubans voluntarily renounced their rights to private enterprise and free initiative. It is our great hope that, in the immediate future, Cubans will be able to use their capacity, creativity and hard-working spirit to pull their families out of poverty.

National Dialogue participants foresee a future order in Cuba in which free enterprise supports public health and education, both of which will continue to be free and universal.

True democracy

Those who think this vision is Utopian do not believe that democracy is suited for achieving development based on principles of humanity and social welfare. Cubans, who have already suffered the extremes of capitalism without democracy, and primitive communism, do not accept that we must deprive ourselves of democratic rights to gain social benefits—because without democracy, we have been left poor and without rights.

We think that a democracy that is unable to achieve social justice is not a true democracy. The support that the Cuban people need right now is solidarity with the National Dialogue. This is a dialogue without borders and without exclusions. We hope that this spirit, which has brought Cubans together in an unprecedented way, will transcend our country’s borders and reach the hearts and minds of people around the world. Cuba will be the home of all Cubans.

Oswaldo Pay is the founder of the Varela Project, a dissident petition drive in Cuba.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on August 09, 2005 by bernie with 199 total posts

    I just can’t understand how such an inane article
    can be published by the Miami herald in the usa.
    This jerk oswaldo paya sound like he’ into this
    project for some kind of payback.


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