SYLVIA G. IRIONDO’S STATEMENT
CUBA TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY SUMMIT
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY PANEL DISCUSSION
THE BILTMORE HOTEL
OCTOBER 13, 2006
Ante todo, pido un minuto de silencio por todos aquellos que han dado sus vidas luchando contra el totalitarismo, y un minuto de recordación por los prisioneros políticos cubanos…
Les pido que me permitan hablar en inglés para beneficio de nuestros amigos…
Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today with so many individuals, government and non governmental organizations’ representatives committed to promote democratic principles around the world, and to help bring about democratic change in Cuba.
I thank Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Mel Martínez and our three members of Congress – Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart – for their efforts in bringing us together for this Summit, and for the opportunity to address this distinguished audience on the important subject of international solidarity – as it relates to the plight of the Cuban people under totalitarian rule during almost half a century.
I am indeed grateful to many of you who, having been able to break the chains of tyranny, have not forgotten those who still live under its yoke; and to those of you who represent governments that have chosen to stand up for the rights of the Cuban people in their unrelenting struggle to free themselves from an oppressive system that is responsible for inflicting so much misery and suffering – not only in Cuba but in this Hemisphere, where it has for more than four decades threatened its security and stability.
I salute those of you, who risked everything for freedom, and specifically thank the representatives of East and Central European countries that were themselves victims of communist regimes, for sharing your transition experiences and lessons learned with us. We truly appreciate your leadership, guidance and support through “Friends of a Democratic Cuba” as we strive together towards accelerating the dawn of freedom on Cuban soil.
The organization I represent, Mothers & Women against Repression (M.A.R. por Cuba) was founded in 1994 as a non governmental organization committed to help bring about fundamental liberties to the Cuban people. M.A.R. is dedicated to uphold respect for human rights, to promote democratic values, to raise awareness of Cuba’s reality and to enlist international solidarity for Cuba’s freedom. M.A.R. has established close ties with members of the pro-democracy movement and of the independent civil society in the island.
Among our international activities, for the past six years we have sponsored a Human Rights Parallel Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, set to coincide with the annual meeting of the former United Nations Commission on Human rights.
This parallel forum has consistently provided a much-needed tribune to victims of the worst human rights’ violators that sat on the former Commission and continue to sit, unfortunately, on the newly appointed Council, to silence the voices of those they oppress.
We have attended international conferences; met with parliamentarians at the European Union in Brussels and at the French National Assembly in Paris; traveled to host cities of international summits -- such as the annual Iberoamerican Summit which this year will take place shortly in Montevideo, Uruguay – attended meetings with Presidents, First Ladies, former Presidents and representatives of democratic governments, participated in press conferences and sponsored centers of information on Cuba’s political prisoners and repression, among many of the activities in which the organization is involved, doing all that we can to advance our cause. We know, as you do, the meaning and importance of international solidarity.
No one can deny that we are at a critical and defining moment for the future of Cuba.
Beyond the demise of a ruthless dictator, the Cuban people strive to bring a cruel and long-standing dictatorship to an end. But, we need your help in order to avoid the consolidation of the regime’s planned succession. Succession is not an option. The Cuban Nation is committed to nothing more, and will accept nothing less, than true democratic change.
Although many factors can come into play, it is essential for democratic governments and the international community to reach out to Cuba’s pro-democracy movement and emerging independent civil society within the island to ensure that, despite the regime’s brutal repression, it continues to grow, strengthen and receive the solidarity that it needs.
It is of the utmost importance that a well conceived, coordinated and cohesive action plan with concrete steps be developed in order to avoid policies that will only serve to legitimize the regime’s stay in power in the eyes of the world, in detriment of the Cuban people. This plan should be aimed at empowering all those courageous men and women who are standing up for their rights and ideals despite fear of retaliation, incarceration or death.
Today, more than ever, they need to know that the international community stands with them, raises its voice for them and denounces crimes and abuses committed against them. They also are in dire need of resources to carry out their civic and peaceful struggle effectively.
Your support is extremely important, as well as your commitment to enlist the support of others within the international community of democracies.
The exile community has never wavered in its resolve and determination to support the internal democratic opposition. The pro-democracy movement in the island and our organizations in exile are constantly moving towards developing consensus positions on the core principles that unite us in favor of a genuine transition to democracy in Cuba. Providing material and logistical support are also crucial in this stage of the movement.
Some examples of this unity of purpose of the Cuban Nation – in the island and in exile - was the 10-point “Agreement for Democracy” reached in February of 1998, subscribed by a broad spectrum of organizations.
Another is the campaign launched on July 25th of this year by political prisoners and activists from within Cuba who called for “non cooperation with the dictatorship”. This initiative is being promoted by more than 45 organizations in exile and numerous groups within the island. This plea from political prisoners has brought us together, and we stand united in support of the “non cooperation campaign”, targeted at all the Cuban people on the island, the exile community and the international community.
Another example of cooperation and unity between those in the island and in exile is the 5-point action plan signed this week by the Cuban Patriotic Forum, which is comprised of important exile organizations -- among them umbrella exile groups -- and the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba, headed by Martha Beatriz Roque, a coalition of more than 300 independent groups in the island.
The time has come to unite as human beings who share the same values against dictatorships intent on destroying them. Towards that end, I propose the creation of an “International Democratic Solidarity Coalition” that brings us together against totalitarianism and strengthens the ties that bind us, so that our words translate into actions, and our hopes convert into dreams fulfilled.
In closing, I want to share with you an excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech, which states:
“There is much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, a Martin Luther King jr. – one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs”.
Those were the words of a great and extraordinary man.
Today, we speak with one voice. And that voice – in any language – rings freedom!
Cuba will soon be free. And on that day, we will not forget those who helped us, as we embrace on Cuban soil and say again:
APOYE LA CAMPAÑA: "YO NO COOPERO CON LA DICTADURA, YO SI QUIERO EL CAMBIO"Cobertura completa: http://www.marporcuba.org