“Fifty Years without Freedom” By Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas January 2, 2009

I live in Havana, Cuba, in a modest neighborhood called Cerro. When the first democratically-elected government was installed in Chile, the first Chilean Christian Democrats visited our country. They dared to contact us, we who from the inside were, and still are, engaged in the peaceful struggle for democracy and freedom in Cuba.  

They brought us a message of hope. After living for 17 years under military rule, the Chilean people began to walk peacefully down the path of democracy and respect for human rights. As we shared our experiences under dictatorial regimes, we learned that there is no distinguishing between good or better dictatorships; between left-wing or right-wing dictatorships; they are simply dictatorships.  It was extraordinary to us that people who had suffered under a dictatorship, even one that was ideologically different from the one established in Cuba, had the honesty to acknowledge that on our island there was, and still is, a dictatorship.  This is how many Chileans have shown their solidarity with us for years.  Sadly, I must say that this is not the attitude held by the current Chilean government.  It seems that they have lost their memory, and are guided by a one-sided morality that tells them that dictatorships—so long as they are not right-wing—can be good or even desired by the people.

I say this because I am writing about Cuba’s human rights situation after 50 years under the Castro regime. We now stand alone, because all Latin American countries have left us behind, all the way from Mexico to Chile and Argentina. No nation, including the Cuban nation, would choose not to have the right to choose ever again.  Cuban citizens did not choose to relinquish their right to travel, their right to freedom of expression, or their right to move freely at home, at school or at work.  Nor did we choose to allow a Chilean or a Russian citizen to own a business and relinquish our own right. Much less did we choose the existence of only one political party to deny to us citizens the right to form other political parties, free labor unions, and—in practice—our sovereign right to reform the laws and Constitution of our country.  This totalitarian regime has been imposed on us; we did not choose it. 


Many have asked for an assessment of Cuba, but one cannot reduce half a century of our history into mere political evaluations. We have experienced much love and hatred, much generosity, and good and bad deeds. We have also seen a massive exodus of people to other countries in search of freedom. But much greater has been the support given to the Cuban government. At times this support has been very sincere, but no one can say how much is feigned because we live in a culture of fear. In short, we have experienced everything except freedom.


The lack of freedom and civic and political rights has facilitated the perpetuation of this government for 50 years, under the veil of social justice and sovereignty. Cuba is a country where power and money are concentrated in the minority, while the majority remains poor and without a voice.


Nonetheless, we do have an alternative.  It is the Varela Project, which proposes a referendum to initiate change by giving the people a voice to reclaim their rights (www.oswaldopaya.org). We have been harassed and persecuted while we demand these rights for all. 


This alternative is based on national reconciliation and seeks to safeguard the good changes while opening the future to men and women of a new generation to be free. Many have been imprisoned under inhumane conditions, alongside regular prisoners, for being part of our peaceful initiative. When there is no freedom, no one can speak on behalf of the people. Thus, as an indisputable starting point, we can say: we Cubans want freedom.


Comentario de Eladio Sardiñas
Hora: 7 Febrero 2009, 10:07 am

solamente quisiera saber si tengo algun parentesco con Osvaldo Paya Sardiñas? Vivi en Cuba en la Havana unos cuantos años , mi abuelo se llamaba Eladio Sardiñas, mi padre Enrique Sardiñas

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