[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Payá Speaks Out for National Dialogue

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Payá Speaks Out for National Dialogue

Oswaldo Payá, Cuba's star dissident, speaks out on his desire for a "National Dialogue" with respect to a democratic transition in Cuba in an opinion piece published in today's Miami Herald and displayed in its entirety below. I offer a few comments at the bottom of the post.

HAVANA -- There are many myths about Cuba and speculation about its future. Yet its people have not had a chance to express themselves freely -- and now, for the first time in many years, citizens have to opportunity to offer their opinions about a democratic transition and to show the path to the future. This is the National Dialogue.

The Varela Project's well-known campaign for a referendum on basic freedoms has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures from Cuban citizens demanding their rights. Despite the imprisonment of dozens of its activists, this campaign continues. Cubans do not only want the rights called for by the Varela Project; they want to shape all aspects of Cuban society -- social, political, economic and cultural, all controlled by the totalitarian state. Cubans want their voices heard in shaping the transition.

The National Dialogue was launched in December 2003. The following spring, Cubans both on and off the island began to participate in this process. Thousands of Cubans, in ''dialogue groups,'' have met to discuss the Working Document, which helps to frame the debate over the transition. More than 3,000 collective and individual responses have been processed by committees on the following themes: economic change, political and institutional change, social issues, public health and the environment, public order and the armed forces, media, science and culture, reconciliation and reuniting with the exile community.

Fear of change
As a result of the consultations of the National Dialogue, these committees are providing a summary of their findings to a commission that will produce a draft of the Transition Program. This document will be presented to Cubans for discussion and to help prepare for the transition.

The National Dialogue has been successful in helping Cubans overcome two great fears: first, fear of the regime, because this process is not conducted under perestroika; and second, the fear of change. For Cubans, being able to engage in the dialogue despite official repression and intolerance is psychologically liberating. It is also helping to dispel the myth that a transition will mean catastrophe for Cuba. In fact, not only Cuba's impoverished majority, but also Cubans from all social classes are participating in the dialogue, including some individuals in comfortable positions in the regime.

The National Dialogue is demonstrating the desire for a transition free of chaos, revenge, primitive capitalism, interventions or displacement of families from their homes by previous owners, without destroying what is positive. Above all, Cubans want freedom and their basic rights. They never will embrace a system that denies them the inalienable right to freedom.
Those who think that Cubans prefer living without freedom see Cuba through the warped prism of ideology or other interests, or simply see us as less human. The National Dialogue clearly demonstrates that we Cubans have the right to those basic rights.


The National Dialogue has also shattered the fallacy that for the sake of social benefits Cubans voluntarily renounced their rights to private enterprise and free initiative. It is our great hope that, in the immediate future, Cubans will be able to use their capacity, creativity and hard-working spirit to pull their families out of poverty.

National Dialogue participants foresee a future order in Cuba in which free enterprise supports public health and education, both of which will continue to be free and universal.

True democracy
Those who think this vision is Utopian do not believe that democracy is suited for achieving development based on principles of humanity and social welfare. Cubans, who have already suffered the extremes of capitalism without democracy, and primitive communism, do not accept that we must deprive ourselves of democratic rights to gain social benefits -- because without democracy, we have been left poor and without rights.

We think that a democracy that is unable to achieve social justice is not a true democracy. The support that the Cuban people need right now is solidarity with the National Dialogue. This is a dialogue without borders and without exclusions. We hope that this spirit, which has brought Cubans together in an unprecedented way, will transcend our country's borders and reach the hearts and minds of people around the world. Cuba will be the home of all Cubans.

Unless you're fidel, it's hard to argue with Payá's basic goal which is a free and democratic Cuba. For that he deserves to be commended. It's also hard to argue with the overall message being conveyed in the article.

All this doesn't mean that we can't have doubts over the particulars concerning his plan. Unfortunately, the dissident movement in Cuba is divided, in no small part due to Payá's refusal to endorse other dissidents such as Martha Beatriz Roque who prefer a more confrontational, yet peaceful, approach. This rift must be resolved if Payá's plan is to come to fruition.

Payá speaks of uniting all Cubans, including those in exile, but has been critical of exile support of Roque and others. Perhaps he's afraid of an exile takeover.

He also mentions the participation of those with "comfortable positions in the regime". If that's the case, then wonderful. But who's to believe that those people would be interested in true change, rather opting for only a slight modification or compromise of the current situation. This is a frequent criticism of Payá that he hasn't been able or willing to dispel.

For all of Payá's good intentions, his words of unity cannot come true or be taken seriously until he starts to recognize and accept the other dissidents who have a different, yet viable, approach.

10 Comments:

Anonymous daniel said...

robert, hate to do this, BUT...
here is your last paragrpah
For all of Payá's good intentions, his words of unity cannot come true or be taken seriously until he starts to recognize and accept the other dissidents who have a different, yet viable, approach.

substitute the name PAYA for any hardline dissident, and the same could be said.. it goes both ways.. all im saying, is that ALL sides need to stop the bickering and snide remarks and innuendos and work together

9:36 AM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

daniel,

I think you might be missing something. The Assembly Members never turned their backs on Paya, as far as I'm aware. If they did, please point me in the right direction.

As the #1 dissident in Cuba, Paya has an obligation to recognize and even to set the example for the other dissidents. Anything less from him shows a lack of trust, at best, and a hidden agenda, at worst.

9:43 AM, August 10, 2005  
Anonymous daniel said...

no, youre right to a degree, but i think paya is wise to distance himself form "outside influence" ie: us money, and no one can question his motives.. what i was saying in the first post is that there are those who discount paya because of his stance, and dont consider him a dissident, that there are those who dont accept his approach..

9:59 AM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

A member of the opposition in Cuba is ostracized. No chance at a job or a way to live. I don't have a problem with U.S. funds going to help dissidents so they don't die of starvation or for materials or so they can do their work in the independent libraries, as independent journalists, and commentators. Very few countries in the world are as afraid of "outside influence" as Cuba. And that list of regimes includes the most oppressive. Why does a dissident need to be clean of foreign support? I guess no outside aid came to South African opponents of Apartheid. Right?

1:49 PM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

Paya is living in a dream world if he thinks that accepting money from exiles somehow diminishes or corrupts the dissident movement. If that's the case, then all the international recognition and notoriety he's received could also be perceived as outside influences.

Of course fidel considers outside support of dissidents to be an act of aggression against the regime, that's because he doesn't allow elections and freedom of speech.

All the dissidents and their supporters want is a taste of freedom and free elections, without resorting to violent means. They have the Cubans' true interests in mind. Outside aid to support their noble efforts can only be seen as a positive.

2:02 PM, August 10, 2005  
Anonymous daniel said...

conductor: herein lies the problem: if they get dollars and buy food and products, doesnt that money go back to fidel anyways? like the proponents of the embargo and restrictions always say? yeah, i know im being a smartass-devils advocate here, but you cant have it both ways.. a regular jose cant send what he wants to his mother, but uncle sam can send it to marta beatriz? and the main problem i have with them getting aid is that it gives the APPEARENCE of impropreity, it makes it SEEM as if they are under marching orders from washington, and castro can use that to "smear" them in the eyes of the cubans on the island.. i think it does more harm than good..

3:36 PM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

daniel,

allow me to "interrupt" here. Yeah the money may end up going back to fidel, but at least it gets to its intended source FIRST.

As far as the appearance of impropriety, I think Cubans on the island are smarter than we give them credit for. I'm sure they appreciate all the money they get from us here, as well as whatever assistance we can provide to dissidents. fidel's smear attempt would go in one ear and out the other. The international media is another story...however.

8:23 PM, August 10, 2005  
Blogger Songuacassal said...

I have long supported Paya and the Christian Liberation Movement -particularly the Varela Project. Nevertheless, it causes up into great doubt when he, as the leading dissident, agree with the government and refuses any outside assitance in Cuba. Moreover, I have since had my doubts about him when he trashed the historic APSC back in 5/20.

And finally I would like to pose this: does anyone have a concrete notion of what the Varela Project was about. Because there was never really any documentation AT ALL as to the specifics of it. It vaguely describes a place in the consitution where if enough people sign a petition, changes in the government can be made.

Okay, but here's the illusion:

I've read ALL of the Cuban Constitutions. And in the current BS Constitution of castro NO mention of this change ability is mentioned. As a matter of fact it is only mentioned in the Constitution of 1940, which at the moment holds no water. Thus, for most of us exiled people who don't read the current constitution, we're lead to believe that Paya is really on to something.

If anything, I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that with a lack of concrete purpose Paya is less of a solution and more of a wild goose chase.

Some coincedence that with all that is going on with Roque, silent Paya speaks.

Not to make this into a post Rob, but I'm starting to suspect that Paya was placed in his position by the cuban gov. as a distraction for the Catholic Church in lieu of the Popes visit.

I still have hope in him, but the more Paya acts this way... the more I start to doubt in him.

1:49 AM, August 11, 2005  
Anonymous daniel said...

robert, yes , i know the money gets to the intended source first, BUT, when i argue the "let money flow without restrictions to family memebers" point on babalu, you know i get shouted down with the "money ends up in fidels pocket" argument, so, whats the difference here? why is it ok one, but not the other.. i just dont see how you can defend giving it to the dissidents, but leave restrictions for family members.. and, remember they are dissidents, the government already has it out for them.. in the late 60's early 70's nixon was convinced (and were pretty sure he was right) that groups in this country like the sds and the weathermen underground were receiving money from cuba.. these were "dissident" groups (no not in the same spirit as those in cuba, but they are dissisdents nonetheless), who did not like the us government, did not like us foreign policy, and wanted to "change" our system.. the fact they received money from a foreign, enemy government drew a big red bullseye on them.. if we found out castro was financing groups like alianca martiana and antonio maceo brigade, or some fringe commie group who wanted to change the system here, people would be screaming in the streets, have them arrested for treason for accepting aid form an enemy government, yet, we are considered the enemy in cuba and we send aid to their dissidents.. maybe im looking at this all wrong, but i just think it makes things more dificult for them.. if they had no ties to the us, castro cant use it to discredit them..

8:24 AM, August 11, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

I'm not 100% in agreement on the restriction in sending money to family members. Yes the money does go to Fidel, but you know that our community has always been willing to ignore that in order to help out family in Cuba.

It really doesn't matter to me what the Cuban government thinks of our actions. They have no moral ground to stand on. We have to do what is right. Supporting dissidents who are in favor of achieving democracy through peaceful means is right, and deserve our support.

12:31 PM, August 11, 2005  

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