Despite a diversity of criteria
By Daniel Garcia Marco
HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — Cuban dissidents on the island and exiles in Miami took a step today to seek unity despite their diverse criteria on how to “build democracy.”
“We are a plural, horizontal and diverse representation of the views from inside and outside Cuba,” said activist Manuel Cuesta Morua, who lives on the island and is visiting Miami. He said a Convention for Democracy in Cuba will take place in Miami on Wednesday, noting that dissident figures Berta Soler, Guillermo Fariñas, Yoani Sánchez, María Rosa Paya and Eliecer Avila, are among those expected to attend.
“We intend to send a clear message that Cubans inside and outside the island need to walk together to build democracy. Differences strengthen nations, not weaken them,” said Cuesta Morua, who called for “unity in diversity in shaping the discourse of the nation.”
Noone should be left out, he added, “we are talking about inclusion, not exclusion,” inviting all who want to join.
Eliezer Ávila noted that the experience of the exile community is useful for having created “a democratic Cuba on US soil, the starting point for a dynamic and prosperous Cuba.”
Little Havana will host the Convention, a discusson on the new scenario in Cuba and what Cubans can do to achieve a fully democratic country.
The rapprochement between the governments of Washington and Havana also surprised Cuban dissidents, who are divided over the new US position.
The US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, convened last week several dissidents to a “breakfast” during her visit to Havana.
Among those invited was Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, who refused to attend on the grounds that the US delegation did not take into account opponents of the thaw in US-Cuba relations.
Guillermo Fariñas, known for his hunger strikes and his European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, agrees with Soler. Today he was present by telephone at the press conference in Miami and criticized negotiations between Cuba and the United States for “ignoring the non-violent internal opposition”.
Jose Daniel Ferrer, also invited to be present tomorrow at the Convention in Miami, did meet with Jacobson. “Some believe it is a mistake, that they [the Obama administration] should not have taken these steps,” he said last week in Havana on the political rapprochement of Havana and Washington.
“Others of us believe that these are positive steps,” he added. “What seems to be missing is to sit down” to unify criteria, Ferrer said.
That is what could be achieved tomorrow in Miami, where there are dozens of varying organizations. All have a final goal, democratic change in Cuba, but separating them are the means to do so. There are even small groups that still support armed struggle against the Castro regime, and others, the majority, more likely to reach out.
“Our Ideologies should be left out of this game, the key is the nation”, said Cuesta Morua. He considered a good starting point four previously elaborated consensus points, asking the government of Raul Castro to release political prisoners, respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognize Cuban civil society within the island and in the diaspora, and hold free, democratic and competitive elections.
These items were approved by the majority of dissidents on December 22, five days after the announcement of the resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States.
“Without these conditions that we ask the US to require, we will not accept nor be part of this negotiation. We are not going to forget all those killed, shot and drowned in the sea,” said Fariñas today, clearly showing that the unity among the internal dissidents and exiles they hope will come out of tomorrow’s gathering will be a complex process.
“Within a few years, this day [January 28] will be remembered when Cuba manages to be free and democratic,” said activist Fernando Palacio about tomorrow’s convention.
“It’s time to show what many people have questioned over all these years of dictatorship: whether civil society in Cuba and Cubans who have had to go into exile have sufficient maturity, intelligence and a common agenda for freedom and democracy on the island. If they can be smart enough and flexible,” he added.