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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

President of Costa Rica comments on Cuba’s democratic future - opinion

Posted August 30, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Miami Herald | BY OSCAR ARIAS SANCHEZ

In his third inaugural address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told us that, ‘‘The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase of human history. It is human history.’’ Without democracy, liberty is no more than a mirage. Political stability, economic well-being and social justice are denied. By this point in history it is clear that noble ends cannot be achieved by immoral means, that liberty does not sprout from oppression, that dictatorship can satisfy people’s most basic needs but not their most important needs, like respect for their dignity. Only democracy can do this.

The establishment of democracy in Latin America has been a long learning process, slow, prone to relapse, but ultimately invaluable. It has taken root in every nation in the hemisphere but one. Today Cuba is the only exception in the great Latin American transformation toward liberty—the only country in the region to deny that democracy, no matter its strengths and weaknesses, is the historical destiny of humanity.

For those who genuinely believe that democracy is a right of all mankind, the time for covering up what we know to be true has long past. Cuba is not some different kind of democracy, nor has it followed a path chosen by the Cuban people. Cuba is, plain and simple, a dictatorship, and this gives great pain to those of us who love liberty. For a democracy means something very concrete: free, multiparty elections; free association and expression; spaces to exercise the right to dissent and peacefully demonstrate; freedom of the press and freedom from censorship. Above all, democracy means political power subject to checks and balances, the most important of which being citizen control over regularly scheduled elections and the clear possibility for power to change hands. None of this exists in Cuba.

If someone insists on affirming that the Cuban people reject democracy and its privileges, we would have to tell them that a vast anthropological and genetic gap must exist between them and the East Germans, who celebrated with unbounded joy the fall of the Berlin Wall. A vast gap must exist between them and the Czechs, who took to the streets by the thousands to bring about the Velvet Revolution.

There must be a gap between Cubans and Chinese students massacred in Tiananmen Square; between them and activists who risk their lives to join their voices with Aung San Suu Kyi to call for democracy in Myanmar; between them and the thousands and thousands of Spaniards, Argentines, Chileans, Uruguayans, Portuguese, Brazilians, Peruvians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans who lost their lives, liberty or their citizenship in the struggle against dictatorship and for the rights that are the essence of democracy. We would have to tell them, essentially, that Cuba is in complete defiance of history.

I would like to think that the recovery of President Fidel Castro will finally open a long-postponed debate over a democratic transition on the island. It is a discussion in which Latin American countries have a right to participate. This participation does not mean setting a course for the Cuban people, it means creating the conditions for the Cuban people to truly choose a course for themselves.

The first and most urgent guarantee for which we must struggle in every international forum is the lifting of the economic embargo to which the island has been subject for decades. The second is a Latin American commitment to strongly pressure for the closure of the U.S. naval base at Guant�namo Bay and the return of the territory to Cuba.

The unequivocal support of the nations of Latin America for both these actions constitutes a reasonable foundation for asking the Cuban government for clear signs of democratization. The Cuban regime should give these signs not so much as a show of good will but as a strategic step to make possible an orderly transition, making possible more-ample international support and the preservation of certain accomplishments of the revolution.

The situation in Cuba is much more than a political problem. Above all it is, as former Costa Rican President Jos� Figueres Ferrer warned decades ago, a human problem. The Cuban people deserve to choose their own destiny. If those of us in Latin America who believe in the democratic system contribute to making that possible, I am sure that Cubans, too, will choose to make the transition, along with all of us, to the great adventure of liberty and the path of democracy on which our community of nations has irrevocably embarked.

Oscar Arias Sanchez is president of the Republic of Costa Rica and winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize.

Member Comments

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On August 31, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

When President Arias speaks of ” those of us in Latin America that believe in the democratic system contribute to making that possible” what exactly is he referring to? I hope he doesn’t propose to isolate Cuba as the U.S. has done for the last 45 years.

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On August 31, 2006, BERNIE wrote:

The definition of “democracy” is like the definition of “terrorism”, whatever the beholder beleives it is, that is what the definition is.

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On September 04, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

I think It’s a much needed speech from neighbors that are more like us than they are not.  I believe what he is saying is that it is about time for everybody in this hemisphere to live in their country with the expectation of a future and having a say in that future.

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On September 04, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

Bernie: I aggree with you, it’s a bit chilling.  Unfortunately what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander if they don’t see themselves in you, they don’t give you the same consideration they would give themselves, unless you’ve got something they want.  The Darfur genocide will probably continue because they don’t identify with those people and there’s no natural resource to benefit from.  But if that would happened in Kuwait or somewhere in the Uk., we would have had the Calvary there in two seconds as we did.

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On September 04, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

Dear J. Perez:  I think I just figured it out.  Charlize Theron and President Arias are friends.  She wrote his speech and Presdent Arias wrote the script for her documentary.

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On September 06, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

I’m confused by what Arias says about Cuba being “the only exception in the great Latin American transformation toward liberty—”. 

It seems to me that as time goes on they do in fact open up more, such as with religious freedoms and gay rights, etc.  No matter how difficult things might have been thirty years ago, their movement seems to be forward, not backward, which makes Mr. Arias’ comments all the more out of sync with reality, especially when he doesn’t know what changes Raul will be making.

Maybe his accusations have more to do with a distaste for the leftward swing of Latin America as a whole as they attempt to follow in Bolivar’s footsteps towards a free and independent Latin America.  I wonder if sees Costa Rica being isolated at some point.

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On September 06, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

No, the speech was a recipe for Arroz con Pollo.  Didn’t anybody read the speech?