Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban pro-democracy activist and member of the Coordination Team of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), addresses the 5th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.
Rosa Maria Paya: I want to thank the first two speakers, because I realize that we are here today and we are working for the same things. We are working for pacifist solutions, and we are expecting that the international community will recognize our realities. I also want to thank the organizer of this Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. It is my pleasure to thank all the friends who worked to make this meeting possible, to facilitate my travel here, and to all of you joining us here today.
My country is in a deteriorating and unstable situation. My people have suffered from [a] lack of human rights for many decades already. My family has been directly affected and attacked. I think it is time to stop. It is time to change, and [all the time] a growing group of Cubans is working to make that change true.
At the same time, the Cuban government has developed a series of legal reforms and public messages designed to preserve its powers and authority. These reforms do not guarantee the citizens’ rights. This is the fraud change. I want to be clear about something: the lack of human rights is the principal reason for the suffering, poverty, and social problems of our people.
Europe is proof that a country doesn’t have to choose between being economically successful or being a state of pride; Cuba is neither of those two things. In 2007, my father and the Christian Liberation Movement delivered a legal initiative called the Varela Project to the National Assembly, which is our parliament. This project, as well as the Varela Project, which is supported by more than 25,000 citizens – and you cannot imagine how difficult it is to collect the signatures of thousands of people who are living in fear – calls for elemental rights, which are grounded in a few articles of UN constitutions, but are violated in law and in practice.
Now, the Christian Liberation Movement, which is our movement, as well as other organizations in the opposition, is collecting signatures in support of the Valera Project, calling for legal changes. Coincidentally, some of the reforms which the government promotes are precisely in some of the areas in which the Valera Project has called for reforms. In each case, the new laws, far from giving power to the people, have been decided so that the government retains the last word. These laws not only confirm the government’s control, they also maintain the discrimination against the Cuban citizens. For instance, the reforms of the immigration laws eliminat[ed] the exit permit, but added a list of requirements to receive the actualized passport. The government continues deciding who may enter or leave the island. So it is a procedural change and not an actual recognition of the right to travel that all people have because of their human condition.And this is just one representative example. This time I could get out, but other Cubans couldn’t and they still can’t.
The Valera Project has hundreds of activists in different provinces of the country and from different organizations of the opposition. It forms part of the path of the people, which is a proposal that is welcomed and supported by the majority of the Cuban democratic movement. The path of the people demands fundamental rights, which the Cuban people lack, and suggests steps to obtain them. It also expressed the fact that the opposition in Cuba is united in its objectives. As the vision of the path of the people says, it is up to only us, Cubans, to define and decide on the change our society needs and to accomplish our national project. And as my father said, nobody, not a state, neither a market, could be over the freedom of the person and the decision of the people. We don’t want and we don’t need to depend on anybody, not on Venezuela, not on the United States. What we do need is to be free. Free to dream, free to decide, free to love, free to make, free to build with our imagination and our effort the society that we want; the society that we, the Cubans, choose. The path of the people says, for our citizens to truly design, decide and build their future, their rights must be guaranteed by the law and a trustful and respectful environment must be attained. Only by doing so will we engage in a genuine national dialogue, and launch an inclusive process of legal reforms to preserve the advances that people have achieved and to exercise the people’s sovereign right to change that which the people decide to change.
So our demand is for the rights of all Cubans to their fundamental rights, and to free elections. We need political support for this and the other demands, which are contained in the path of the people. And this is the support that we expect from all of you. Otherwise, the Cuban government has continued and has raised the repression against the political activists.The leaders of the Valrea Project in the whole country are always under [the] watch and oppression of state security. Other opposition groups and independent journalists are also suffering the government hostility. The Cuban democratic movement is entirely peaceful, and it’s being confronted by force and in many cases, with violence.
As my father said, the Cuban civic fighters, the citizens who signed the Valera project, are not carrying arms, do not have a single weapon. We are holding out both arms, offering our hands to all Cubans as brothers and to all the people of the world. The first victory that we can claim is that we do not have hate in our hearts. We therefore say to those who persecute and try to dominate us: “you are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are no longer going to dominate me through fear. I do not want to impose my truth and I do not want you to impose yours. Let us see the truth together.”
My dear father Oswaldo Payá, and my young friend Harold Cepero, gave their lives fighting peacefully against the fraud change and for the freedom of the Cubans. My family, our movement, and many people do not believe that their deaths were accidental. My father received many death threats during his life, which increased in the last months of his life. We received a mobile text message from Madrid that told us that his car was hit by another car. And most of the information suggests that their deaths were provoked intentionally. We are asking from you support for our request for an international investigation into their deaths.
I have fear, but my fear will not dominate me and I trust and I know that more Cubans feel the same way. We have a path, so we have hope. We are all Cubans. We are all brothers, and now we want freedom. God help us all. Thank you so much.