Cuba Must End “Apartheid Against Its Citizens” / Oscar Arias, Laura Chinchilla

Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla, signed the appeal along with dozens of Latin Americans. (TicoVisión)
Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla, signed the appeal along with dozens of Latin Americans. (TicoVisión)

The undersigned, Latin Americans and diverse in our allegiances, professions and interests, but united by a common aspiration for freedom, democracy, equality and well-being throughout the hemisphere, address our fellow citizens and governments, especially those in Cuba, to express the following:

We celebrate the growing process of normalization in Cuban-American relations and the willingness of other democratic states to increase their interaction with the authorities in Havana. We see an opportunity in this process to encourage a greater inclusion of Cuba in the world and to improve the living conditions of its citizens.

At the same time, we condemn the systematic and continuous violation of human rights on the island; the persistence of a political model centered on the control of a single party; the open repression against those who deviate from the official line, and the continuing discrimination against Cubans in favor of foreigners, in areas ranging from economic rights to free access to communications and information.

The time for an act of reciprocity with the democratic world has come, but above all, as an inescapable duty to its own people, it is time for the regime headed by President Raul Castro to begin a genuine process of political and social openness and to listen to the initiatives for change from its citizens, and to reactivate the timid economic changes announced with enthusiasm, but paralyzed amid rigidity, fear and bureaucracy.

The time has come for Cuba to open itself to its own people.

There is no justification to continue preventing Cubans from asserting the basic rights and freedoms that belong to them, and that are widely recognized by universal instruments of human rights. Many of which, paradoxically, have been signed by their own government.

The road to full democracy must be taken without delay. Each new setback prolongs the precariousness and limitations of the people, hinders the chances of success and raises the risks of internal conflicts. Thus, it is time to begin to open the path, recognizing, at least, the following guarantees for all Cubans:

Freedom of expression, understood as the right to seek, receive and impart information, opinions and other content by any means without limitations, censorship or subsequent repression.

Freedom of association, assembly and demonstration.

Freedom of movement inside and outside the country.

The right to petition the authorities and public powers.

The right to elect and be elected in a multi-party environment for all public offices.

The right not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, to have fair trials before independent courts and have mechanisms for an effective defense.

The right not to be discriminated against in education, employment or social areas because of political or religious beliefs, or for any other reason.

The elimination of ideological control over education.

The freedom to undertake professional, labor and business initiatives without restrictions, and for Cubans to have at least the same opportunities offered to foreign investors or traders. The virtual economic apartheid, but also social and political apartheid, prevailing on the island against its citizens must end without delay.

None of these very basic rights, which are part of everyday life in the vast majority of our countries, can be exercised in Cuba. Worse still, those who dare to claim them are the targets of open repression and systematic marginalization.

In its 2016 World Report, the NGO Human Rights Watch highlights and documents several cases that “in recent years have significantly increased the short-term arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders, independent journalists and others.” Between January and October 2015, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation, declared illegal by the government, received more than 6,200 complaints of arbitrary arrests, which were exacerbated prior to the visit of Pope Francis to the island in September of the same year.

The report also reveals the existence of a difficult to determine number of political prisoners, given the absence of reliable information; beatings and assaults against non-governmental protesters in the street; prison overcrowding; case-by-case restrictions on travel within and outside of Cuban territory; the inability to form independent unions; and the refusal to recognize the defense of human rights as a legitimate activity.

The sad conclusion is that, despite the world and particularly the United States, increasingly having become more open to Cuba, the regime has not opened to its own population, which, with some exceptions of privilege, remains mired in insecurity, controls, lack of opportunities and political and social asphyxiation. This closure must be dismantled; the political, economic and social embargo of the Cuban regime against Cubans must be eliminated.

Direct responsibility to end this situation belongs to the elite that has dominated Cuba since its one-party and monolithic state. However, it extends to the governments of Latin America, so far passive actors and even accomplices to chronic arbitrariness and paralysis of the regime.

“Our America” which the hero of Cuban independence José Martí proclaimed as an ideal of Latin American unity, cannot become reality as long as there persists in Cuba a government that is impervious to citizens rights, and that displays a double standard before the world.

In proclaiming these concerns, we express our desire for Cubans to be able to build, in peace and freedom, a new democratic, peaceful and inclusive order.

Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), former president and Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), former president. Graciela Fernandez Meijide (Argentina), was Secretary of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons. Jaime Malamud Goti (Argentina ), jurist and one of the masterminds of the trial of the military junta in Argentina. Eduardo Ulibarri (Costa Rica), journalist and former Ambassador to the United Nations. Ricardo Gil Lavedra (Argentina), lawyer and politician, member in 1985 of the court that sentenced the military juntas of Argentina’s dictatorship. Beatriz Sarlo (Argentina), essayist and journalist. Carlos H. Acuna(Argentina), political scientist specializing in State and public policy and member of human rights organizations in Argentina from 1977. Roberto Gargarella (Argentina), lawyer and sociologist, CONICET researcher and teacher. José Manuel Quijano (Uruguay), Economist and former director of the Sectorial Commission and the General Secretariat of Mercosur. Sergio Fausto (Brazil), political scientist and Executive Superintedent of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute. Roberto Ampuero (Chile), writer, columnist, former Minister of Culture and former Ambassador of Chile, lived in Cuba between 1974 and 1979. Rodolfo Rodil (Argentina), former vice president of the national Chamber of Deputies. Facundo Guardado (El Salvador), former member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and former presidential candidate. Daniel Sabsay (Argentina), professor of Constitutional law at the Faculty of law of the University of Buenos Aires. Liliana Riz (Argentina), sociologist and senior researcher of CONICET. Luis Alberto Romero (Argentina), historian, National Academy of History. María Matilde Ollier (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Eduardo Viola (Brazil), professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia. Hector Schamis (Argentina), political scientist, teacher, researcher and columnist. Aníbal Pérez Liñán (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Vicente Palermo (Argentina), sociologist, writer and researcher with CONICET. Marcos Novaro (Argentina), sociologist, professor and researcher with CONICET. Alejandro Katz (Argentina), essayist and editor. Roberto Garcia Moritán (Argentina), diplomat and former Vice-Chancellor. Fernando Petrella (Argentina), diplomat and former Vice-Chancellor. Jorge Edwards (Chile), writer and diplomat. Osvaldo Guariglia (Argentina), philosopher and researcher with CONICET. María Sáenz Quesada (Argentina), historian, writer and former Minister of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires. Lilia Puig (Argentina), Congresswoman in Parlasur and former national Congresswoman. Juan Octavio Gauna (Argentina), lawyer and politician, former Attorney General and National Deputy. Fernando Pedrosa (Argentina), historian, teacher and researcher. Raquel Gamus (Venezuela), anthropologist, political scientist and journalist. Patricio Navia (Chile), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Adolfo Garce (Uruguay), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Daniel Muchnik (Argentina), journalist, historian and writer. Carlos Gervasoni (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher .Armando Chaguaceda (Cuba), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Daniel Perez (Argentina), designer and painter, published a testimony on the Cuban military intervention in Latin America during the 60s and 70s. Jessica Valentini (Argentina), lawyer and former Ombudswoman in the city of Cordoba. Sabrina Ajmechet (Argentina), sociologist, teacher and researcher. Jorge Elias (Argentina), journalist, writer and researcher. Alejandro Oropeza (Venezuela), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Francisco Quintana (Argentina), lawyer and legislator of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Luis Gregorich (Argentina), journalist and writer. Manuel Mora y Araujo (Argentina), sociologist and communications consultant and public opinion relations. Marta Velarde (Argentina), lawyer and former Congresswoman. Carlos Facal (Argentina), lawyer and former president of the Citizens Power Foundation. Andrés Cañizález (Venezuela), journalist, teacher and researcher. Eduardo Amadeo (Argentina), National Deputy, diplomat, economist and former Minister of Social Development. Gabriel Palumbo (Argentina), sociologist, teacher and researcher. César Ricaurte (Ecuador), journalist and activist for freedom of speech and the press. Nicolas Joseph Isola (Argentina), Doctor of Social Sciences and columnist in various media. Romeo Pérez Anton (Uruguay), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Ignacio Labaqui (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Aleardo Laría(Argentina), lawyer and journalist, political exile during Argentina ‘s military dictatorship. Antonio Camou (Argentina), Sociologist, teacher and researcher. Javier Valdez Cardenas (Mexico), journalist. Alejandro Páez Varela (Mexico), journalist. Rolando Rodriguez (Panama), journalist. Maria Sirvent (Mexico), human rights activist. Jose Ruben Zamora (Guatemala), journalist. Rafael Rojas (Cuba), historian, teacher and researcher. Leandro Dear (Argentina), political scientist, professor and head of the NGO electoral transparency. Fernando Ruiz (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Martin Landi (Argentina), political scientist and activist freedom of expression. Hugo Machin (Uruguay), journalist and former political prisoner during the military dictatorship in Uruguay. Rogelio Alaniz (Argentina), journalist.