14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 March 2016 – A few hours before US President Barack Obama will land in Cuba, a statement presented by independent civil society has been backed by thirty civil and political organizations, along with several individuals from the island and in exile. The document takes advantage of the situation to invite “the Cuban political class” to understand that “there is no longer any room for the philosophy of the besieged fortress.”
The document, which in its first day of publication accumulated 60 signatures, stands out not only for its content but for achieving the agreement of some opposition leaders who initially disagreed with the president’s trip. However, in a gesture that seeks unity, they now subscribe to the six core issues that should be present in a debate among Cubans.
Most of the signatories live in Cuba, but the support of individuals and entities has also come from the United States, Spain, Mexico and Chile. Even if there is no formal closing date, the total count of signatures will be made in mid-April of this year. Only then will the balance be clear of the lamentable abstentions from an initiative of inclusiveness that transcends the event of the presidential visit.
In the six issues addressed in this declaration, specific issues of concern to the Cuban people do not appear, such as shortages, the high cost of living, transportation problems, or the acute housing problem. Nor does it speak of the need to reunify the currency, increase wages or fight against corruption.
The drafters of the document and the dozens of activists who were consulted on the final declaration chose to include general issues of a political and legal nature, issues which in their judgment might lead to finding solutions to the many specific demands.
In short it can be said that the declaration calls for a social and democratic rule of law; free, fair, competitive and pluralistic elections; ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the cessation of repression and the use of physical violence against political and human rights activists; the immediate release of all those unjustly incarcerated, especially political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and those subjected to conditions of parole; the repeal of Law 88, known as the Gag Law; and the return of all the rights of citizenship to Cuban emigrants.
An inventory of signatures will be made in the days leading up to – this is not by chance – the holding of the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, whose agenda is still unknown and which is very likely to exclude in its analysis the demands made known in this declaration.
The difference between what will occupy the attention of the Communists in power and what concerns the opposition will ideally be evaluated by the final recipient common to both sides: the people of Cuba, to whom some propose the continuity of the system and others propose a rupture. The paradox is that this assessment will not be possible until the current opposition demands are met.
The DECLARATION can be read in English here.
The initial signatories can be seen on the Spanish version here.