The dawn embraced me strongly, as did a sense of exasperation. I was afraid of losing the opportunity to share with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his team.
I take two taxis to travel the 10 miles separating Calvario, a little village in Arroya Naranjo, from Fraternity Park in the heart of Old Havana. I’m still waiting for another to get to the Hotel Santa Isabel, near Havana Bay.
“Don’t watch the clock, you’ll just make yourself more nervous,” I tell myself, as my feet race along the cobblestones of Obispo Boulevard. It’s not every day that an international figure is disposed to listen, on an equal footing, to dissident voices.
“I got here late, but I got here,” I repeated, seated at the table with my blogger friends Claudia Cadelo, Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Leannis Imbert representing the group that defends the rights of LGTB homosexuals, Osvaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and the host, Mr. Carter, with his wife and staff.
In that space, as small as the time, he heard the free and independent voices of a group of Cubans worried about the future of this island in the middle of the Caribbean. We were not the only ones, others who also had the opportunity were the Ladies in White and the dissidents recently released from Cuban prisons.
We couldn’t say everything, but at least we let him know the main concerns of the actors of Cuban civil society. A good starting point to work towards the goal of respect for human rights on the Island.
For me it was an honor to share with the former American president and also with my friends. The lounge now has a place in my memory. “What does it mean for you?” was the question I meant to answer when I started writing this post. Now, almost finished with it, I feel it’s unfair to trap in a few words the significance of this event in my life.
I can confess, however, that it was worth having raced through Havana, barely able to breathe. I feel greatly comforted by the interest of these people in listening to leaders and dissidents, without pressure.
Also, I take advantage of my blog to thank, once again, the Carter Center and the former American president, for giving us the opportunity of a space where we could express ourselves with complete freedom.
April 7, 2011