By Pedro P. Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – On May 10th 2002, the late Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, presented 11,020 signatures to the National Assembly of People’s Power, under Article 88 of the Constitution in force at the time, asking for reforms so that democratic change could be brought about in Cuba, through Socialism’s legal channels. This became known as the Varela Project.
The government counterattacked with a campaign of slander and repression, as well as pushing forward a reform to this Carta Magna, which announced the irrevocable nature of the ruling Socialism. This reform was passed with the signatures of millions of citizens, with a vote that wasn’t secret in the slightest, going against what a legitimate referendum should be. In spite of setbacks, signatures continued to be collected in support of the Varela Project.
There was a man living in my neighborhood who was committed to collecting signatures. I reached out to him and signed this request, even though I was scared, as I believed it was my civic duty. I wasn’t the only one, there were over 40 signatures in my small community. Faced with this situation, the State Security official who was responsible for my neighborhood, began to summon people who had signed. For some unknown reason, they forgot to summon me. I remember living in a mixed state of relief and uneasiness. Uneasiness because I didn’t want people to suspect I was something I wasn’t: An informer.
My best friend was one of the people who was summoned. According to what he told me, they wanted him to see that he had been manipulated, that he was a good guy, that he realized he had made a mistake and needed to withdraw his name. In spite of being afraid, he stood his ground for a while.
“Don’t you know that if we go to your university and tell them that you are a counter-revolutionary, with the first bomb your going to land miles away?” That was more or less what they threatened him with.
Personally-speaking, I thought I was immune to any harm, but one day I saw two Ministry of Interior (MININT) officials outside the door of the Director of the Law Firm’s office where I worked. I don’t know why, but I had a feeling it had something to do with me.
I shared my office with the workplace Party Secretary, and a week later, I saw a file with the minutes of PCC meetings on his desk. It seemed he had left them there by mistake. He had left the office at 5 PM and I was still there, writing up an appellate procedure.
I couldn’t help but be curious. I opened it and then I found out what they were discussing at the last meeting. According to the director, those “MININT colleagues” had informed her that I was “one of the 40 signees in my town, of the so-called Varela Project and that I had even received money for doing this.”
I can’t describe the rage I felt reading such a lie. After a few minutes, the fury slowly transformed into fear. I was afraid of seeing my dreams cut short. I loved my job and I could lose it at any moment. That… at the very least.
I became really suspicious, so much so that the director picked up on it. She asked me to come to her office one day. She was a very intelligent woman. She gave me a speech. I let her suspect that I might be kicked out, without referring to the minutes. With an unemotional face, she said something that put my mind at ease.
“Don’t worry about a thing. While I am the director here, I will respect everyone’s individual thoughts.
That’s the way things were for a while, but when for no reason, and no explanation, my contract with the University where I taught classes was suspended, I knew that my self-determination had a price.