Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lech Walesa - “Cubans need responsible leaders”

Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 21, 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks with several Cuban activists on the
situation of the island and the possibilities for democratic change

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Warsaw, 21 October 2014 — Vaclav Havel and Lech
Walesa had an agreement that death annulled. The two would go to Havana
when the democratic transition occurred to support the process of
political and civic reconstruction in our country. The "Cuban change,"
however, has been too long delayed and the Czech died before realizing
his dream. The Solidarity leader, meanwhile, has only been able to have
contact with the island through dissidents visiting Poland.

Yesterday, Monday, Walesa talked for more than two hours with a group of
activists from diverse provinces and political leanings. It was if a
piece of Cuba had arrived in the autumn cold of Wasaw. I share here with
the readers of 14ymedio the first part of that conversation.

Lech Walesa: Tell me what can I do to help speed up the democratization
process in your country. Am I likely to see a Free Cuba before I die?

Dagoberto Valdés. I have good news for you and a suggestion of how you
can help. A significant and growing group within Cuban civil society has
identified four points on which we agree and which are demands to the
regime. It is a way of organizing ourselves, but not the only one. There
are other agendas, but I will now read the four issues on which we
converge: the release of political prisoners, the ending of political
repression, ratification of International Covenants on Human Rights, and
recognition of Cuban civil society as a legitimate interlocutor. You
could collaborate with us to disseminate these and support them in
international forums.

Lech Walesa: I like those points, but I would add a fifth which would be
to ask that "Raul Castro leave power," because I think when the previous
four are achieved it will be because the current system has been
dismantled. If the rulers accept that agenda, that would mean that they
would lose power immediately. So I think that they will never approve
them, but in any event I support them.

Yoani Sánchez: You wonder when you can visit a free Cuba, but for now
what has happened is that a fragment of an already free Cuba has come
here. A plural, diverse and growing group of Cubans, who behave as free
beings, have come to Warsaw this week. Isn't that hopeful?

Lech Walesa: Wherever there are two Poles there are three political
parties and from what I see wherever there are two Cubans there are five
political parties. You have to be very well prepared and organized, not
only for what you are doing now but for what comes next.

Once democracy is achieved there are very important elements that have
to be considered and one of them is creating laws that protect the
rights of the people. However, if they already exist, than you have to
ask yourself if people are using them to behave like citizens, if they
are enjoying the legality they have and are organizing themselves in
accordance with it. Another important part is economic resources. If
people are afraid of showing their political differences because they
will lose their jobs or resources, this greatly limits democratic activism.

Yoani Sánchez: In the case of Cuba, recent years have also been
characterized by a loss of the government's monopoly on information.
Numerous independent publications have emerged and new technologies help
people to be better informed. Do you think this flow of information will
help bring about change?

Lech Walesa: I am a big user of the new technologies, I always have a
computer or tablet nearby. However, although technology and information
are very helpful in any democratic process there is also information
that can slow it down.

One day, after the transition, I was speaking with a Polish soldier who
had had a high position in the Communist regime. I asked him why the
military had not participated actively in the democratic struggle. His
response was very interesting. He told me that in the barracks they that
knew all the major Polish cities were targeted for a Soviet military
attack. They had missiles pointed at those cities. Many people did not
know, but the military itself was aware it. They feared that the USSR,
with the push of a button, could erase a third of our country. Knowing
too much paralyzed them, the responsibility this information brought
them made them opt for passivity.

Dagoberto Valdés. With this control and all the threats of a foreign
force how did Poland free itself? Did the spiritual power of the nation

Lech Walesa: For over twenty years I was looking for people to join me
to overthrow communism, but very few wanted to join. We had a more
difficult situation here because our country came to be occupied by more
than two hundred thousand Soviet soldiers and people were enormously
afraid. Our struggle was different, for too long we couldn't organize
because the government had a very simple formula against us: disperse,
divide and dissolve the democratic forces. We were lucky that a Polish
pope was appointed. He joined us first in prayer and faith, but
afterwards the opposition also learned to channel that sense of unity
brought to us by John Paul II.

Before the appointment of Karol Józef Wojtyla as Pope, I could not
muster even ten people, and then ten million joined in. He awakened the
nation and said "do not be afraid."

Mario Felix Lleonart: I would like to say that even though you are not
able to travel to the island, the government is very annoyed that you
are receiving activists in Poland. The official press has published
several articles against you. What message would you like to send to
those who are in opposition in our country?

Lech Walesa: During the years of change in Eastern Europe, the Cuban
opposition was not as organized and could not use that democratizing
energy. Maybe that's why you have had to wait so long. However, in the
eighties when I was asking people whether they believed that Poland
could democratize, everyone answered me no, we had no chance. The
forecasts were very unfavorable.

You are in this situation now, because few believe you can change. Sure,
they said the same thing to us, but you should wake up and find those
values—which every nation has—and in these is the unifying force. If you
find them and bring them together you can achieve it. You need a
multitude of people who say, "Starting tomorrow we are going to change
our country." Who don't just believe it but who take to the streets, who
go into the factories to convince others. For this you have to have
structures. You need responsible leaders.

Source: Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez | Translating Cuba -

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