By email from Oswaldo Paya’s Christian Liberation Movement
With all due respect to the American side—as the country where many Cuban exiles have found a home and many with Cuban ancestry are sons and daughters of that nation by birth—I would like to discuss the Cuban dimension of the so-called Cuban-American family.
In the most complete and just sense of family, these Cuban-American families are an inseparable part of the Cuban family. For us, no one is “almost family” but simply family. When one part of the family suffers, regardless of where it may be, so does the other.
If anything has marked world history and the history of the Cuban people, it is Cubans’ almost obsessive rootedness and love for Cuba that can only be compared to the Hebrew people in their defense of their identity and belonging. No one denies that a fundamental aspect of that character is the strength and permanence of the Cuban family. This is how we are. So what?
It is not possible to defend the Cuban-American family without defending the entire Cuban family that includes the family living in exile and the one living in Cuba.
On June 25th, I read a full-page article in Granma written by Mr. Gabriel Molina entitled “A Challenge to Anti-Cuban Prohibitions.” In it, he refers to electoral matters in the counties of southern Florida. This is not my topic, as regarding electoral issues, what we defend are the rights denied to Cubans to nominate directly their representatives and to elect and be elected through an electoral law. This is what the Varela Project proposes—that the people may decide, freely and democratically, who should represent them.
Remember that in Cuba, the right to popular sovereignty is denied: not only through a climate of fear and a lack of respect for fundamental rights, but also through Electoral Law #72. This law establishes that 614 candidates for the National Assembly are to be selected by committees of organizations controlled (or not?) by the Communist Party, from which voters may select 614 representatives (this is what the Electoral Law dictates; this is not a commentary of mine.) Imagine: one candidate for each seat! But this was not the topic of the article, nor of the elections in Florida and the rest of the United States—elections that Cuba’s official press has covered with much interest.
What interested me most about the article, which was filled with quotes, is the issue of family rights. This issue, among others, was addressed in a conference hosted by the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. The conference apparently focused heavily on electoral issues, something I have already admitted is not my topic.
According to Granma, during that conference Mr. Alvaro Fernandez, representing the Cuban-American Commission for Family Rights and other conference participants, stated, “…we all agreed on the following: the cruelty of the restrictions that limit family travel to Cuba…”
Should I believe that this consensus condemnation includes the cruelty on the part of the Cuban government not to allow my brothers to visit Cuba to see our mother—suffering from cancer—before she dies? Or the detention of my nephew—a Cuban living in Spain—when he arrived at José Martí airport [in Havana] and his deportation two days later? For Cubans, entering or leaving Cuba is not a recognized right.
All of us within the Christian Liberation Movement have defended, and will continue to defend, the right of all Cubans to travel to any country and to enter and exit Cuba freely. We are therefore against any restriction that prevents Cubans from coming to Cuba whenever they desire, without conditions.
Respecting the right of Cubans who live outside of Cuba to come to Cuba should not be conditioned on change in Cuba; this would inflict double punishment on the same victim. But Cubans living outside of Cuba must act in solidarity with their brothers and demand all the rights of Cubans living in Cuba, for in doing so, they are demanding their own rights.
If fear reaches them outside of Cuba, and they decide to pay the price of silence—or even feign complacency—to be allowed to enter their own country as “visitors,” they will only contribute to the extension of the humiliation of all. If they do not see it this way, they should look at the passport they used to leave Cuba and explain why it says “definitive exit.” Who established that clause of exile? In any case, everyone must respect the decision and right of all Cubans to come to their country.
A little more than six months ago—on December 18, 2007—we made the first civic demand of the Cuban Forum Campaign. We presented to the offices of the National Assembly a proposal for a bill of National Reconciliation titled the “Heredia Project.” Cubans can explain to their children and non-Cubans why it is named HEREDIA (http://www.oswaldopaya.org ).
The Law of National Reconciliation recognizes all Cuban exiles—or émigrés for whatever reason—and their children as Cubans, and therefore recognizes all their rights as Cuban citizens. It also guarantees the right of all Cubans—living inside or outside of Cuba—to enter and exit Cuba freely and to return to live here, in their country. The law proclaims the end of the punishing category of “definitive exit,” the end of confiscations or looting of properties of Cubans who emigrate from that moment on, and the end of the need for permission for Cubans to exit and enter Cuba. This law also eliminates all the humiliating discriminations we suffer as Cubans in our own country.
This Heredia Project, which does not suffer from partial moral paralysis, would have served as a timely clarification at that conference in Washington. If one speaks of justice and against cruelty, it is a priority to demand the release of those jailed in Cuba for defending the Cuban family and all Cubans who defend their rights.
Neither Granma—which is funded by public money—nor the areas where many Cuban exiles live has published or talked much about the Heredia Project.
We will continue to struggle from here for the rights of all, including our beloved and inseparable Cuban family in the diaspora—which is the same Cuban family, one family, like the one people that we are. Above all, we must remember that this state, the state of their ancestors, does not recognize their civil rights and has imposed upon them—in practice—the condition of refugees. Many families have been separated cruelly and arbitrarily as punishment against so-called “deserters”; this is just one example of many.
The Cuban Forum Campaign continues the demands of the Varela Project. All Cubans, yes, would like to live in Cuba, but as free men and women with all their rights. It is a campaign for peace because it is a campaign for justice and liberty. It is a campaign for reconciliation because it declares a sincere dialogue where all have a voice. It is a campaign for fraternity to announce, in turn, a true liberation.
If they silence those of us who, with transparency and determination, demand the rights to liberty and the respect of the dignity of all Cubans, other voices will speak for the people that does not have voice—and not necessarily to demand their rights.
No one should say only, “the Christian Liberation Movement wants to end restrictions of Cubans traveling to Cuba.” This is true, but only part of the truth. Better would be for all to say bravely, “let’s support the Heredia Project, the right of Cubans to all rights wherever they may be, their right to travel to Cuba without restrictions, to enter Cuba and to live in Cuba without restrictions, and to leave Cuba, to express themselves freely and, above all, the right to be free and to enjoy all their rights in their own country. That is liberation.
Oswaldo Jose Payá Sardiñas is the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement
Christian Liberation Movement