On the occasion of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, independent civil society groups issued a rare joint statement:
The visit to Cuba of Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, and his wife, Mrs. Michelle Obama, from March 20 to March 22, 2016, ends a cycle of audacity and political pragmatism, which has meant a new era for the Americas.
This historic turning point with Cuba began on December 17, 2014. It was supported, and at the same time repudiated, by different sectors of society, generating external and internal disputes in the 45-plus organizations and independent activists working in the Democratic Action Unity Coalition (Mesa de Unidad de Acción Democrática MUAD), including organizations supporting the Citizen Platform #Otro18 and Civil Society Open Space, in addition to other civic and political actors, within and outside Cuba.
The people promoting this Statement are no strangers to the geostrategic dimension of this change and its triple impact on our country, the Western Hemisphere and the world.
The controversial logic of this process shows the opportunities and challenges that all Cubans will face, and for those in the international community who want to encourage a geostrategic change that effectively promotes democratic change in Cuba.
We consider that the visit of the President of the United States is another step forward in the full normalization of relations with our country, but especially with its citizens. We believe it is important to take this opportunity to advance our efforts to achieve the democratization of Cuban society and its political system and the development of a project to achieve an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic country.
This is also an opportunity for the Cuban political ruling class to understand that there is no space for the “besieged fortress” philosophy, which qualifies any dissident as a traitor, and maintains the exclusionary, discriminatory and authoritarian political regime. The country should be “for all and for the good of all.”
This new atmosphere should progressively promote the debate among Cubans and a radical change in the behavior of the authorities regarding seven basic topics:
- Recognition of the need for a social and democratic state of law, and progress towards the enjoyment of economic, civil and political freedom for all Cubans, including those permanently residing abroad.
- Citizen deliberation on the growing demand for fair, competitive and pluralistic free elections, based on a thorough reform of the electoral system and the recognition of the diversity of civic and political alternatives.
- Immediate ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the National Assembly, after being signed by the Cuban government in 2008. Additionally, the mandatory adaptation of the national political system to its principles.
- The end of repression and the use of physical violence against political and human rights activists who use legitimate, nonviolent civic action in the streets to express their demands.
- The immediate release of all unjustly incarcerated prisoners, especially political and conscience prisoners, and those subject to parole release without the possibility of forced exile.
- The repeal of Law 88, or “Ley Mordaza”, designed to punish Cuban citizens for alleged cooperation with a country that is unilaterally and constructively normalizing its relations with Cuba’s totalitarian government and Cuban society.
- The establishment of an expeditious and transparent schedule for restoring all of the rights of citizenship to Cubans abroad.
We also expect that the conversation that President Barack Obama will hold with Cuban civil society representatives will not only strengthen and legitimize pro-democracy activists on the island, but it will also encourage other international speakers to open dialogue with and publicly acknowledge the plurality of civil and political actors within Cuba.
As the evolution of world affairs demonstrates, the prosperity, stability and sustainability of countries depends more and more on a broad focus in which economic progress cannot and should not be dissociated from progress on freedom and social justice.
With the arrival of Mr. Barack Obama to Cuba, part of Pope John Paul II 1998 call for the world to open up to Cuba will be fulfilled. Another great starting point for the Cuban government to finally open up to all its citizens.
Havana, March 18th, 2016.