Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cuban dissidents in Miami - ‘This is the hour of Cuba’

Cuban dissidents in Miami: 'This is the hour of Cuba'
01/27/2015 7:59 PM 01/27/2015 8:58 PM

With calls to take advantage of the "hour for Cubans" and build a
consensus to work on the democratization of Cuba, several dissidents and
activists from the island said Tuesday they will join forces with exiles
in Miami to take part in a Convention for Democracy in Cuba to be held

The call for action comes on the heels of historic talks in Havana last
week between Cuban and U.S. diplomats to restore relations between the
two nations after more than 50 years.

"Cubans inside and outside the island can and need to walk together to
build democracy, no matter what our differences may be," said Manuel
Cuesta Morúa, leader of a group called Arco Progresista (Progressive
Arc). "Differences make nations stronger, not weaker. Whatever
ideologies we hold can be set aside. The fundamental thing right now is
our nation."

Morúa was joined at the press conference at the University of Miami's
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies by other prominent
activists, including Dagoberto Valdés, Eliécer Ávila of the group Somos
Más (We are More), attorneys Laritza Diversent and Wilfredo Vallín, as
well as Fernando Palacio of the opposition group Partido Solidaridad
Liberal Cubano (Cuban Solidarity Liberal Party).

The gathering at the Cuba Ocho center in Little Havana — taking place on
the birth date of Cuba's national hero José Martí — will serve as center
of dialogue among Cubans of varying backgrounds. The topics of
discussion will focus on four points of most interest to Cuba's civil
society: the release of all political prisoners and an end to political
repression; respect by the Cuban government of the United Nations human
rights covenants and other international agreements; the recognition of
Cuba's independent civil society as a "valid interlocutor"; and the
implementation of constitutional and legal reforms.

Morúa said that a similar discussion about the future of Cuba will take
place simultaneously at the homes of more than 400 activists across the

"It's a good time to forge a discourse about the nation and for that,
there can't be too many voices," he said, adding that what now matters
most is not the dialogue between the governments of the United States
and Cuba, but rather how Cubans will advance "toward democracy."

"It's time for Cuba; it's time for all Cubans," said Valdés, founder of
the Catholic magazine Vitral, which became a popular critical voice in
Cuba's Pinar del Río province. "No more unanimity; the new nation must
be built on diversity.

"Cuba is not Cuba without exiles and the diaspora," added Valdés, who
now heads another publication called Convivencia (Coexistence). "No
historical memory can be left out of this moment."

Cuban opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas, who joined the press
conference via telephone from the island, said he disapproved of "the
secret manner in which the negotiations" occurred between the U.S. and
Cuban governments that led to the Dec. 17 announcement to restore
diplomatic relations.

But he said the opposition must now focus on how to take part in
discussions already under way. When Fariñas and other dissidents met
with Roberta Jacobson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western
Hemisphere Affairs, in Havana, he asked: "When will the non-violent,
internal opposition be called to join the negotiations?"

Jacobson responded that the U.S. has no intention of abandoning
dissidents, a sentiment she repeated during a stopover in Miami en route
back to Washington.

Fariñas and others said an agreement that does not address the concerns
of civil society would be unacceptable.

"The population is seeking viable alternatives for a peaceful and
prosperous future," said Valdés. "We don't want a democracy of leaders
again; we want a democracy of programs and those exist within civil

"Some of us are not well known, but the current government's agenda is
completely exhausted," he said. "They are well known but outdated."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on @ngameztorres

Source: Cuban dissidents in Miami: 'This is the hour of Cuba' | The
Miami Herald The Miami Herald -

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