14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — A group of Cuban opponents, including Eliécer Ávila, have convened a march for Saturday, January 26, in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to request a No vote in the constitutional referendum of this coming February 24th. Several organizations of Cubans living in other countries have decided to embrace the call to protest at the diplomatic offices of the countries where they live.
The organizers believe that it is important to “send a loud and clear message (…) with sufficient time in advance about the need to vote No in the upcoming constitutional referendum” Ávila explains to 14ymedio.
It is not the only demand of the call for a public protest with the motto Protest for all the prohibitions, which attempts to reclaim the freedom of entry and exit to/from the Island “without restrictions, nor black lists.” In addition, the organizers demand “having a passport at an accessible price for all,” dignified treatment in the ports and airports, and the right of Cubans to invest in Cuba with full legal guarantees. Under current law foreigners can invest in Cuba but Cubans cannot.
Added to this list are the petitions for several political rights such as the right of Cubans abroad to vote in all elections and popular consultations that take place in Cuba, the direct vote for the Presidency of the Republic and the claim for a plural and democratic constituent process, in which a Constitution is written that represents, protects and inspires all Cubans.
The call to gather was created by Lucio Enriquez Nodarse and, according to Ávila, has two fundamental slogans: #YoVotoNo (IVoteNo)and #NoMásProhibidos (NoMoreProhibitions). Although the day chosen for the rally was January 28, the anniversary of José Martí’s birth, it was moved to the 26th which is on the weekend. “The birth of the Cuban apostle who dedicated his life to uniting his people seemed inspiring to us to conduct the protest,” he explained.
Some Cubans living in Europe have organized an encounter at the Cuban Consulate in Madrid and another in front of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Eliécer Ávila introduced on his Facebook profile two of the young Cubans who will be “volunteers” organizing the marches: Osneir Fonseca in Santiago de Chile in South America, and Grette León in Europe.
Ávila points out that the invitation is aimed above all to Cubans themselves in order to “gain self-confidence and raise morale in a struggle that sometimes requires injections of energy.” The event can be, in his eyes, a “very powerful” message for their families in Cuba and “to the dictatorial government that does not believe we are capable of organizing and acting together.”
However, the lack of wherewithal means the march depends on the will and efforts of those involved. “The modest sums that we receive as personal donations only cover 15% of the preparations in other areas. So we spoke very clearly and, to our surprise, personal initiative has been the main protagonist of this call to action. Each individual has given a bit of themselves and we already have hundreds of confirmations of travel by bus, train, family cars, plane, etc. The total opposite of a May 1 in Havana. Here it is not the State nor the Party that is responsible for the expenses, each citizen takes action via his own ideas and resources,” explains Ávila, who foresees a four-hour duration for the event.
Among the organizers of the march in the United States are, among others, the presenter Alex Otaola, the exiled Amaury Almaguer and Siro Cuartel, author of the political satire blog El Lumpen. In addition, Ávila adds that several artists have confirmed their presence, such as Michel Marichal, Randy Berlanga, Dayana Elías and Erich Concepción.
Eliécer Ávila has resided in the United States for more than a year, but has not yet exceeded 24 months abroad, after which Cuba requires additional formalities from its citizens wishing to return to the Island. However, he considers that he must mobilize as if he were affected by the problem. “They have forbidden too many things to me, too many rights. And to my family as well. So that one prohibition more or less does not make a difference,” he argues.
On the day of the march those present will include “many people who habitually travel to Cuba, but can’t invest, vote, nor have reasonable costs and treatment for their paperwork. The motives are many and each Cuban has them to some extent.”
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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