>The Varela Project is alive and well and continues to embody the quest for change that Cubans want, now more than ever. We do no commemorate but instead celebrate that first step toward freedom taken by tens of thousands of Cubans in the name of the people. Seven years ago, on May 10, 2002 we presented for the first time, at the offices of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the Varela Project petition for a referendum with the information and signatures of 11,020 citizens.  Since then, many more have signed—and many more continue to sign—the petition all over Cuba , because the government continues to deny fundamental rights to Cubans.


Dozens of organizers of this initiative, supported by the Constitution, were subjected to summary trials and wrongful detentions, and sentenced to the maximum allowed by law. These Varela Project organizers and other Cubans continue in prison for having peacefully defended freedom of speech and the liberty and rights of all Cubans. Through these, the “prisoners of the Cuban Spring,” the government continues to hold captive the freedom of all Cubans.


All of this—the propaganda, the oppression over every aspect of life, the lies fueled by fear, the arrogance by those who hold power over people—is meant to sow disillusion, immobilize the will of the people, and kill hope. This is done so that the people come to believe that nothing can be done, so they continue to live under a reviled status quo.


Through its transparency, the Varela Project sheds light on the kind of future that the totalitarian regime insists on keeping in the dark. The dialogue that is being carried out by the many of us who are struggling for democracy, shows that there is a peaceful way for change and that there is a better future for us.


As the Varela Project continues to reach Cuban citizens one by one, the repressive bodies and their affiliates – those who sow lies and intrigue – have tried to scare and disorient citizens so that they remain immobilized. In recent days, State Security threatened to jail several organizers of the Varela Project. For years, these repressive bodies, political entities and media that answer to the totalitarian regime have tried and continue to attempt to eliminate the Varela Project.  It does not matter with which identity these attackers present themselves, as they all have the same goal of destroying the Varela Project.  They do this because the Project cannot be adulterated, because it cuts to the very essence of the problem with a radical and peaceful solution that will not succumb to lies and propaganda. The Varela Project appeals directly to the people and asks that they be given their voice to choose changes democratically.


Many things have occurred in these past fifty years in Cuba , and there is little that the people have not witnessed – except freedom. And yet, the government continues to suppress the people and justify the lack of rights with arguments that nobody believes.  We are not inventing the need or desire for change that Cubans have. All of us know that Cubans do want change and that those changes will only be just and true when, in law and in practice, they are guaranteed the right to exercise these rights. This is also the road to reconciliation that most Cubans want. Change means rights.


We need rights so that no one has to silence what they think, or say what they do not want to say.  We need the right to travel, to dream freely, and to make a living without it being considered a crime.  We deserve the right to live without fear. Every Cuban and his family deserve the right to make their own plan in life.  The youth have the right to be in charge of their own life and time.  We deserve the right to live a free and dignified life that is more just, humane and fraternal.


These changes that the Cuban people deserve are the same ones that the Varela Project seeks to achieve.  This is why the movement has experienced a rebirth, to pursue a victory for the people and a victory for all.  Some want to kill it, but the Cubans who are familiar with this project support it, give it life, and revitalize the hope that it gives. That hope is in the very determination to obtain these rights.


The Varela Project raises itself to share this message to all Cubans: have faith and be inspired; there is something you can do, and that is to act with the freedom that God gave you and that no one can take away from you. Demand your rights and the rights of all Cubans, as this is liberation.


Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

Coordinator, Christian Liberation Movement

Havana , May 9, 2009


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