Can Communist Regimes Reform? Part 2: The Case of Cuba with Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya

Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, a Cuban human rights activist and co-founder of the Independent Alternative Option Movement, addresses the 7th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.


To Be Confirmed

Full Remarks

[…] I tell you that my name is Francisco Amaya and I have witnessed a wave of killing in my small homeland in Cuba because there was a movement called “alternative movement,” of which I was a co-founder on the 16th of November 1996. And the brothers: Ziggler Amaya, Miguel Ariel and Amayo Acosta, four of them were there in the so-called “Black Spring of Cuba” and were deprived of their freedom. And thanks to the government of the United States, today they are in Miami. And there they’ve been freed, they are able to do their work thanks to the Government of the United States.

Ariel was in a wheelchair, he was practically paraplegic and he weighed very little, 60 or 70 pounds in the end. But thanks to the U.S, they saved him, they rescued him, and thanks to the international pressure, the pressure that you did, that you carried out in Cuba. And by the pressure by the church as well, which allowed them to be freed. 

And then in the Black Spring of March of 2003, there were people who were imprisoned throughout without having committed any crime, simple people, simply because they were defending human rights. They didn’t commit any crime. So there were people who were working construction on squares and other constructions, they had held meetings and they denounced what the Castro government was doing, what the communist government had been doing for 56 years, because they are violating human rights in Cuba. And through the independent press, and through friends abroad, we have been reporting on what’s happening and denouncing what is happening. And because of this, we have been repressed very strongly. We are arrested, we are hauled into jail.

These communists think that they are the owners of the island of Cuba, that they bought it for themselves, that it’s theirs. And they act as if they were the military. And they act as if it was their own ranch that they govern. And this leadership has been carrying on for 56 years and our organization exists for more than 18 years, and we have often been the victims of a cowardly and cruel government. But we defend the rights of all Cubans. 

Now, this situation still exists. And it’s even gotten worse. Repression has grown and the imams of the dictatorship are still there, even though they’re in their final stage. The revolution in Cuba has actually led to hunger and a rather uncertain future. Castro is acting disdainfully towards the international community and is cheating people and is deceiving people. And some people who are not so stupid understand, but they have consciously played Cuba’s game. 

Now, no one in Cuba believes any longer in this hateful, heinous dictatorship. Even the basic officials, the functionaries and civil servants, those working for the leadership, even they realize that the end is approaching and the political, financial and social situation has turned Cuba now into a great marsh where my small island is sinking and the totalitarian power of the Cuban system has led them to reject any process of deep change, of any democratic change, including our proposal, including proposals from abroad. They don’t want to hear about democracy. What they will not accept is a reform or regeneration of the regime. Whatever change to the system is considered incompatible, is incompatible. The system is incompatible with peace and liberty and dignity of the human being which man needs to live and to progress. The big question today is, can the communist system in Cuba be reformed? And we should mention certain elements before we answer this question.

We haven’t fully engaged in renewed ties between the U.S and Cuba, and before this is done, we should see that and take into consideration that we’ve been speaking for 18 years, we in our group, about an agreement and what the North Americans would be doing and what Cuba would be doing. And on the 17th of December, an announcement was made and Barack Obama and a General of the Army who used to send people to the firing squad, that is Castro, got together and they talked. And the hopes in Cuba were very high. There were hopes by the opposition in Cuba – not only in Cuba, in the world. Because the problem of our island is not only a problem of Cubans, it’s a worldwide problem. We are living under the oldest dictatorship of the world, only passed by that of China and Vietnam, which are also repressive, totalitarian, and made of assassins, like that of my country. 

To continue, I’d like to show you the different steps that the communist system has gone through in my country. In the first stage, they set up a communist system, but there was a local ingredient within the system of communism in my country that was introduced by Castro. He took power by force, which is anti-democratic to take power by force, and he killed civil servants from the former regime that had supported him, but he killed them. And he killed political leaders and he had them shot in a cowardly way. He also killed his own people. In order to set up communism, he installed terror and fear from ’59 on.

They confiscated all the property of the citizens. Even poor people with a small plot of land, or if they had a small store, they were all confiscated. And they destroyed the rule of law that had ruled. It wasn’t solid, but it had begun. And they set up a police state, which is still there. And they created repression by the dictatorship. And this was a totalitarian state that was set up. They were authoritarian and totalitarian, which is not the same. There was a centralized economy. There was a monopoly on the means of communication, educational centers, etc. And they continued the monopoly. There was persecution and repression against any signs of pluralism in society, including NGOs and civil society. They use lying and deceit. And they still do it. And it was successful abroad. But we no longer believe their lies in Cuba. 

It was a personality cult. And then as of the 90s, there was an ideological movement within the Communist Party. It was a revolution on all levels. And there was a generational change, young people rose. And there was a new influence of IT and means of communication, this was very important. But the economy was sinking and it was incapable of maintaining the military. 

There were lots of unfulfilled promises. There was hunger, poverty and the influence on the population who [had] heard about democracy elsewhere in the world. And how did the Communist Party try to prolong its power, stay in power? 

They copied methods of democratic systems, when and if they did not endanger their own system. They tried to use technologies and investment and credits from abroad to sustain the repressive apparatus and to sustain the military apparatus. And they used this technology to maintain the apparatus, not to give the people more medicine or better services. No! It was just to support the regime. 

Now, we know the names. Wwe know all about all the inventions and lies; how they supported this communist regime and they united with other dictatorships, and they rallied round together to support each other. Some of these dictatorships were right wing, but what did they care. They approved it anyway. It was self-serving, even with different ideological trends. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” that was their policy, it didn’t matter who it was. Even if it had been a millionaire, they would have accepted him also. And that is why, bearing in mind all of these elements, we can state that Cuban Communism will not accept any reform. 

This is a caste that has ruled for 56 years and we have to sweep out the old team and bring in a new one because they won’t accept reform. This is an illusion. We need a new system of freedom and democracy and respect for mankind. This is what we want for the people of Cuba. We want people to be happy. We want progress, not to be repressed that Cuba should be for the Cubans. 

Thank you.

7th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, UN Opening, February 23, 2015

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