Cuba’s fearless professionals
BY ELSA MOREJON HERNANDEZ
HAVANA—On June 25, the daily Granma published the article Philosophers and social scientists who support Cuba about the Conference of Philosophers and Social Scientists of Cuba and the United States, which had ended the previous day.
The closing speech by the U.S. delegation was read by Tim Sakelos, a post-graduate student at the University of Chicago, who said: “Our visit unfolds in the midst of continuous aggressions by the U.S. government.’‘
Cliff Dur�n, general coordinator for the Association of Radical Philosophers, declared: “What’s most important about this meeting is that should continue and permit academic exchanges between professionals, as well as contact with the Cuban reality.’‘
Journalist Iraida Calzadilla and Jose Carlos Vel�squez, dean of the School of Philosophy, History and Sociology of the University of Havana, praised the U.S. delegation for being unafraid to disagree with its own government and described its members as valiant.
Antonio, an ordinary Cuban citizen, said to me: “Did you see what Granma published? American professionals came here, spoke ill of their government, returned to their country, and nothing happened to them. Do they know that your husband, Dr. Biscet, a professional, is in prison serving a 25-year sentence for opposing the death penalty and abortion, and for calling for democracy? I don’t think so.’‘
Right to free speech
Many Cubans don’t know that Americans have a democratic Constitution with a very clear message: ‘‘We the people . . . ‘’ They also don’t know that the rule of law exists in the United States; so, doing what those professionals did when they came to Cuba is not an act of valor but their right to free speech.
We have never been opposed to the exchange of knowledge, as long as it’s conducted on the basis of equality. It is impossible for a group to appreciate the reality of a country and its people in five days, but Vel�squez told the Americans who attended the event: “You were able to appreciate the state of our spirits, how the people think and act, how our academicians can bring up a variety of ideas and debate them.’‘
Granma concluded: “Subjects of discussion included the ethics of humanity, education, national states, political culture, governability, public policies and civilian society.’‘
When it comes to the ethics of humanity, I would choose to vote for the triumph of the human being and his dignity, something that is far from anyone’s reach in Cuba. This country has the largest number of political prisoners in the world, people imprisoned for thinking differently from the ruling system.
Many Cubans are unaware that those American visitors can own small and large businesses, regardless of membership in the Communist, Republican or Democratic Party. That the development of their civilian society places the United States among the world’s wealthiest nations. That American citizens can feed their families and enjoy the rule of law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has never been published in Cuba; rather, it is presented as a subversive document. For more than 46 years, no free and democratic elections have been held here, and the diversity of political parties is not permitted.
Cuba needs freedom
We aspire to a political culture that ennobles humans. We nurture the hope that Cuba will no longer imprison people for their ideas, because thinking and speaking are human rights, not privileges. Our prisoners defy unjust laws to tell the world: “We are persons, we want human rights. Cuba needs freedom and wishes to live in freedom.’‘
That is true valor. It is a gesture of love toward humanity. It is a gesture in favor of life. Our prisoners have chosen spiritual suffering, separation from their families, and the pain of prison life, in an effort to salvage human dignity.
The American people must know that in Cuba there are professionals who do not fear unjust laws or human misery, as long as they can save humankind’s most precious gifts: God, life and freedom.
Elsa Morejon Hern�ndez is a board member of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba. Her husband, Dr. Oscar El�as Biscet, is a prisoner of conscience, sentenced in April 2003 to 25 years’ imprisonment.