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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Summary of Cuban dissidents’ meeting in Havana

Posted May 23, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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BY ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press

Cuban groups agitating for democracy entered the second and final day of an assembly in Havana, with many people surprised that the government didn’t break up the meeting.

Diverse dissident groups debated prodemocracy projects Saturday, the second and last day of a rare mass opposition meeting marked by the conspicuous absence of several key opponents and the government’s expulsion of European observers from the country.

‘‘We are satisfied that each and every one of us has fulfilled our duty to our nation,’’ said Martha Beatriz Roque, a former political prisoner and lead organizer of the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society.

About 200 people were present—a little more than half of them delegates—when the general assembly opened Friday in the backyard of another lead organizer and veteran dissident, Felix Bonne. With diplomats and other guests absent Saturday, the crowd was closer to about 100.

Many were surprised that the communist government of Fidel Castro did not break up the meeting. Authorities here refer to the dissidents as ‘‘mercenaries’’ and counterrevolutionaries.’‘

Castro himself in recent days hinted that the government would have an ‘‘energetic’’ response for assembly members.

Broken down into commissions on Saturday, the dissidents approved bylaws, were selecting officers and examining projects dealing with subjects such as freedom of expression.

At least a dozen Europeans who hoped to be observers were expelled by Cuban authorities before the event began. Those expelled were a Czech senator, a German lawmaker, six Poles, three Spanish politicians and an Italian journalist. In addition, two Polish lawmakers and a representative of a Miami-based Cuban exile group were refused entry into the country.

In the aftermath of the expulsions, lawmakers from Spain, Italy and Germany on Saturday called on their governments to adopt a tougher line on Cuba.

Meanwhile, several key dissident leaders—including Oswaldo PayŠ, organizer of the internationally known Varela Project signature effort—stayed away from the gathering, which they maintain does not represent the majority of the opposition.

Roque and PayŠ in particular have been at odds for years.

Among those at Friday’s session was James Cason, the U.S. Interests Section’s chief.

Member Comments

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On May 23, 2005, publisher wrote:

PUBLISHER NOTE:

Regular visitors to this site may have noticed an absence of posting of stories regarding this event. For the record, we of course support freedom, freedom of Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba and the freedom of Cuban citizens.

However, this dissident organization is supported by James Cason and not supported by Oswaldo Paya.

For those two reasons, we have chosen not to give the dissident meeting full coverage. We do support their freedom of assembly and recognize the fact that they were able to assemble openly in Havana.

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On May 23, 2005, abh wrote:

I understand and empathize with your point of view but I’d still like to hear what happened on Friday and this website is where I go for Cuban news.