Cuba’s government should stop harassing dissidents and take advantage of Pope Benedict XVI’s forthcoming visit to create space for dialogue, says an eminent persons’ group, comprising a Nobel Peace Prize winner, three former Latin American presidents, the Czech Foreign Minister, a prominent member of Jordan’s royal family, a former Canadian Prime Minister, and a roster of leading dissidents, parliamentarians and rights activists.
“It is time for repression to cease so that Cubans can exercise their freedoms in pursuit of that vision,” says the statement – now an on-line petition – signed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (left); former Latin American presidents Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez, Costa Rica (1982 – 1986), Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador (1989 – 1994), Armando Calderón Sol, El Salvador (1994 -1999); Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg; HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal; and former Canadian Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, alongside such eminent dissidents, democracy advocates and human rights activists as Martin Palous, Director of the Vaclav Havel Library, Prague; French philosopher and writer André Glucksmann; Roman Catholic writer and theologian Michael Novak; Dr. Alaksandr Milinkievic, 2006 Sakharov Prize Laureate, Belarus; several leading Chinese dissidents and 14 Members of the Lithuanian Parliament (full list below).
The occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba provides a vital opportunity to highlight the denial of freedom, democracy and basic human rights to the island’s people, according to a transatlantic consortium of pro-democracy and civil society groups, including Forum 2000, UN Watch, People in Need, and the World Movement for Democracy, which secured the signatories’ endorsement of the following statement:
The world was reminded of the human cost of denial of fundamental freedoms in Cuba by the recent tragic deaths of imprisoned dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza, following a hunger strike, and Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, leader of the internationally-renowned Ladies in White.
Over the past year, we also witnessed the deaths of human rights activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo, following a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment for his ideas, and Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, who died as a result of a brutal beating by security forces. The fate of these nonviolent democracy advocates reiterates the moral imperative to demand freedom and justice for Cuba’s people.
We urge Cuba’s government to use the occasion of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s forthcoming visit to restrain the government’s security forces and quasi-civilian proxies from harassing dissidents. Such a gesture would help create a space for reflection and dialog that will allow Cuba’s people to transcend intolerance and animosity through the recovery of civil liberties and the development of a full and vibrant democracy, without any further loss of human life.
“You are not victims,” Pope John Paul II told Cuba’s people during his visit in 1998. “You are and must be the principal agents of your own personal and national history.”
It is time for repression to cease so that Cubans can exercise their freedoms in pursuit of that vision.
Contact: Carlos Ponce, Coordinator, Latin American and Caribbean Democracy Network. Tel: (+1) 617.200.687 or via email at email@example.com
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder, Stop Child Executions, Iran/Canada.
Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez, President of the Republic (1982 – 1986), Costa Rica.
Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Virginia Aponte, Theater Director, Venezuela.
Petras Auštrevicius, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Igor Blaževic, One World, Czech Republic.
Amina Bouayach, President of Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, Morocco.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell.
Anna Maria Stame Cervone, President, Christian Democratic Women International, Italy.
Christian Democratic International Center, Sweden.
Michael Craig, President, China Rights Network, Canada.
Alfredo Cristiani, President (1989 – 1994), El Salvador.
Cuba Futuro, Netherlands.
Christina Fu, President, New Hope Foundation, USA/China.
Faisal Fulad, Secretary-General, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, Bahrain.
Fundación Hispano Cubana, Spain.
Vytautas Gapšys, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Andre Glucksmann, philosopher and writer, France.
Huang Hebian, Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values, Canada/China.
Yang Jianli, Initiatives for China, Founder and President, USA/China.
Andrew Johnston, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Advocacy Director, United Kingdom.
Art Kaufmann, World Movement for Democracy, USA.
Yang Kuanxing, Yibao, Editor, USA/China.
Dalia Kuodyte, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Secretary/Executive Director, Gram Bharati Samiti, India.
Martin Lessenthin, International Society for Human Rights, Germany.
Arminas Lydeka, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Eligijus Masiulis, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Donalda Meiželyte, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Dr Alaksandr Milinkievic, Movement for Freedom, 2006 Sakharov Prize Laureate, Belarus.
Hillel Neuer, Director, UN Watch, Switzerland.
Michael Novak, Roman Catholic writer and theologian, USA.
Martin Palous, Director of Vaclav Havel Library, Prague
Marija Aušrine Pavilioniene, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Léonie de Picciotto, International Council of Jewish Women, Representative to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Hu Ping, Beijing Spring, Editor, USA/China.
Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Vietnam.
Zuzana Roithová, Member of European Parliament, Czech Republic.
Julius Sabatauskas, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament.
Karel Schwarzenberg, Foreign Minister, Czech Republic.
Armando Calderón Sol, President, (1994 -1999), El Salvador.
Marek Svoboda, Director of Human Rights, People in Need, Czech Republic.
Swedish International Liberal Center, Sweden.
Algirdas Sysas, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, Jordan.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate, South Africa.
Ona Valiukeviciute, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Egidijus Vareikis, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Birute Vesaite, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.
Sister Catherine Waters, OP, Catholic International Education Office, Representative to the UN, USA.
Rokas Žilinskas, Member of Parliament, Lithuania.