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» ICDC: International Committee for Democracy in Cuba

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Ready to support a Cuban Velvet Revolution

2008-04-02 / Petr Kolar

One of the first questions people ask about the importance of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights in Cuba is: What is the special connection between our countries and Cuba? Why are we -- Central European countries, no superpowers, members of the European Union, located so far away from this Caribbean island -- so involved in this ''Cuban issue''? Well, it is simple: We have been there.

The answer lies not in geography, but in history. The Czechs, as well as other nations and peoples of Central and Eastern Europe lived through an era of totalitarian communist regime, where democracy, freedom and human rights were concepts of which you could only quietly dream, while living a nightmare.

After our nations got rid of communist dictatorships, we feel obliged to tell our story: the story of a successful transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy, to civil society, which respects and honors the rights and freedoms of every individual; the story of a successful transformation of nonworkable, centrally planned economy to a vibrant free market economy with a working rule of law designed to protect people's economic interests.

The importance of our message lies not only in the fact that today we are or that we became free and democratic countries, with prosperous and growing economies. What is equally important is that this change occurred without any bloody coups, revolutions or turmoil. Everything started off with peaceful student protests, gradually supported by more and more segments of the society. The Communist police did try to suppress the attempts at the outset, but no major violence took place. That is why our ...

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Europe Needs Solidarity Over Cuba

2008-03-18 / Vaclav Havel, et al

PRAGUE -- Five years ago, the European Union was on the verge of fulfilling one of the aspirations of the Velvet Revolutions that swept across Central and Eastern Europe by expanding from 15 to 25 members through the accession of several post-communist states. Yet, while the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain may have fallen into the dustbin of history, others vestiges of the Soviet era remain firmly in place. Certain areas of the world have been transformed for the better, even as others have been suspended in time to fend for themselves. One place that has not changed is Cuba, despite Fidel Castro’s decision to retire and hand the reigns of power over to his brother Raul.

On March 18th five years ago, Castro’s government cracked down on the Varela Project and other civil society initiatives rather than risk allowing a spark of democratic reform to spread across Cuba as it had in the former Soviet bloc. The seventy five prisoners of conscience locked up were dissidents, independent journalists, leaders from civil society, and librarians, who had dared to speak the truth openly about what life is like in Cuba. Even though four prisoners have recently been released, fifty five of the seventy five remain incarcerated in deplorable conditions. In general, the only reason that any of these prisoners were freed was because of how seriously their health had deteriorated.

Given how central the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are in Europe, we feel it is our obligation to speak out against such injustices continuing unchecked. Less than twenty years ago there were political prisoners on the EU’s borders who were denied the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression, lived in constant fear of being denounced and dreamed about enjoying what Europeans in the ‘West’ took for granted.

Cuba’s regime has remained ...

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One Step Back

2008-02-26 / Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel and Carlos Alberto Montaner

We welcome the news that Fidel Castro has stepped down as Cuban leader. Forty-nine years as the head of a dictatorial regime which has deprived the nation of truly free elections is hardly an honorable mark of distinction. The time for a change had long been overdue. Sadly, Fidel’s abdication has not been meant to give way to a pluralistic democracy, like the one the Cuban people deserve and which is enjoyed by the most stable and prosperous nations in the world, but to perpetuate tyranny on the island.

This is unacceptable. Cuba must be free and independent. Cuba cannot continue to be the anachronistic communist exception in a world that many years ago and after decades of repression and inefficiency decided to discard this political theory. Almost every country that was once compelled to submit to the ideas of Marxism Leninism recovered or welcomed back democracy after a short period of time. Cubans as well have the right to be free. As one of the leaders of the democratic opposition, Oswaldo Payá, argues: "The Cubans have the right to their rights".

Which rights are these? Basically, the ones defended in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ironically, although the Republic of Cuba is signatory of this declaration and his government has never revoked it, it keeps violating the rights it enshrines.

Despite the current situation being received with great skepticism, we would like to encourage the new President and the new members of the Cuban government to implement as soon as possible the real changes that their ...

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Top dissident calls Cuban elections a "farce"

2008-01-21 / AFP Wire Service, Warsaw

Leading Cuban dissident Hector Palacios Ruiz on Monday in Warsaw termed Cuba's Sunday election a "farce" and said he believed "change will come soon" in his communist homeland ruled by Fidel Castro.

"Everyone knows Fidel Castro is the greatest impediment to democratic change in Cuba -- everyone also knows he almost no longer exists," Palacios Ruiz said at a press conference in the Polish capital launching a petition for the release of Cuban political prisoners.

"Every Cuban who lives at least a year will see a free Cuba," he said, insisting the time was ripe for democratic change in his Caribbean-island homeland.

"Cuban society is ready for change and there are people among our dissidents who are ready to take power," he said. "I hope in the future there will be real elections in Cuba just like in Poland at the beginning of the transformation." A former Soviet satellite, Poland shed communism in 1989 in a bloodless transition to democracy and a market economy negotiated by the Communist Party and the Solidarity democratic opposition.

More than eight million of Cuba's 11 people ...

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Cuba Pledges to Sign U.N. Rights Pact

2007-12-11 / Scott Hudson

Both the Cuban government and its opponents used International Human Rights Day as a platform pushing for changes on the island. The Foreign Minister claimed that Cuba would sign an international pact on civil rights early in the coming year, while members of the opposition took to the streets calling for the release of all political prisoners. It was unclear whether the protesters who were taken away were arrested or simply dispersed, but the events of the day hinted that some type of change was imminent.

In the week leading up to International Human Rights Day, the government clamped down on its opponents by using its security apparatus to intimidate, detain and deter potential protesters. Several of the main organizers of the demonstration planned for December 10th were detained at some point recently in an attempt to prevent events from taking place. It was in this context that seven members of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy were arrested on December 4th while demonstrating for the creation ...

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This project is supported by funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic through the Transition Promotion Program.