Complicit silence in the face of the horror of Cuban prisons – Open letter to Miguel Descoto and José Miguel Insulza

Since March of 2003, dozens of Cubans have been serving long prison sentences simply for expressing their ideas, both verbally and in writing, and for peacefully defending the rights of citizens promoted in the Varela Project.  They were all sentenced in summary trials, without due process and by courts obeying the orders of the government.


The prisoner of conscience, Ariel Sigler Amaya, leader of a human rights movement, has been reduced to his limit of physical deterioration while he is continually subjected to sadistic treatment by prison guards.  For more than two months, Antonio Díaz Sánchez, one of the leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the Varela Project, has been confined to an isolation cell—a cage—in the Canaletas prison, in the province of Ciego de Avila , in inhuman conditions.  He is being punished for not faltering in his beliefs and for not succumbing to blackmail attempts by State Security, despite his serious illnesses.  In the provincial prison of Las Tunas, two leaders of the MCL and of the Varela Project have been on a hunger strike for two weeks in protest of the humiliation to which they are subjected.  They are José Daniel Ferrer, who is confined to a cell in which he sleeps on the floor and in which countless rats live, and Alfredo Domínguez Batista, who was transferred to an infernal punishment center many kilometers away from the prison known as “Potosí.”  He was tied up while naked in a cell with mosquito nests.


This situation of physical torture, of cruel and degrading treatment and of unjust and arbitrary imprisonment of people who have committed no crime, must be denounced immediately in the United Nations, the Organization of American States and in the Rio Group.


We believe it is important to remember that our continued work on the Varela Project campaign supports the same civil rights recognized in the Cuban constitution.  This legal initiative proposes a referendum to allow citizens to assert their sovereignty to make changes that would guarantee the rights that all human beings deserve.


Cuba has not held free and democratic elections, or introduced a referendum guaranteeing freedom of expression or civil and political rights since June of 1948.  This dictatorship began in the 1950s, and has since imposed a culture of fear for the last half-century in our country, prohibiting Cubans from exercising their right to vote and to express their sovereignty.


For these reasons, the Varela Project campaign has continued so that the Cuban people will have the right to cast their first ballot and decide their future by freely electing their leaders.  Cuban leaders raise their voices in international forums to demand the rights for other people that they deny their own citizens.  All Latin American governments are aware of these actions and remain silent.  The president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Mr. Miguel Descoto, remains silent and gives praise and support to a Cuban regime that does not value the rights of its citizens.  Many members of the OAS have also remained silent.  Members of the Rio Group have become complicit in the oppression of the Cuban people.  The people of these nations must demand that their governments are not complicit in the oppression of the Cuban people.


Ariel Sigler, Antonio Díaz, José Daniel Ferrer, Alfredo Domínguez and dozens of prisoners of conscience are incarcerated for peacefully demanding the rights that the aforementioned organizations seek to protect.  These governments do not forget that their declarations, documents and numerous ceremonies wallow in the mud of history and lack moral strength because their eagerness for justice will be insincere as long as they are silent and continue to support the oppression suffered by the Cuban people.


Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement

Havana , August 13, 2009


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