It is for me a great honor to be able to express these words in this worldwide famous University of Georgetown. I know that illustrious Cubans have been professors or students here. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a great Cuban, murdered by the Castro dictatorship, spoke here during the historic voyage he made to receive the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament.
I never could continue my university education because of my imprisonment by the Castro dictatorship early in my life. What makes a society free is the rigor with which it seeks the truth through the free exchange of ideas. That is what we want for Cuba.
When I speak about ideas, I recall two Cuban intellectuals in exile whose work has been devoted to the achievement of freedom in Cuba. One is Carlos Alberto Montaner, a voice of guidance for the people of Cuba. The other is Pedro Roig, a lawyer and historian whose leadership of Radio and TV Martí enormously aided the Cuban domestic resistance.
The dictatorship that oppresses my country fears the free exchange of ideas because it knows that its proposals cannot withstand the light of reason. For more than half a century, it has poisoned the Cuban people with an indoctrination that goes from the cradle to the grave. The objective of it all is to stun the free decision-making power of Cubans so as to divide and fragment the nation. Whoever resists the indoctrination is punished with exile, prison or death.
My 17 years and 38 days in Castro’s prisons allowed me to see and experience close up in the diabolical machinery of a dictatorship whose objective is to crush the human spirit by utilizing the most sinister methods. I have seen this. And I have also seen how, despite this brutal repression, Cubans have risen to resist. I am part of that sea of Cuban men and women who civilly resist the dictatorship. I am here because of them and for them.
The unity of the Cuban nation in the quest for freedom is the regime’s great terror. That is why it wants to divide Cubans racially, ideologically and geographically. That is why we postulate the thesis of a single Cuban nation with a single resistance struggling for change.
The Cuban resistance, which struggles peacefully and civically, has a motto: “The Streets Belong to the People.” To all the people. To those of us who want freedom and to those who are still confused by the dictatorship. From Cuba, we have proposed - because the time has come - a Nationwide Civic Work Stoppage. A movement by the people that, in a gradual, progressive and peaceful way, may disarticulate Castro’s repression. We have gone abroad to spread the word.
We want peace for Cuba. True peace, which, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., can only exist when justice is present.
Any political proposal to attain peace in Cuba must come from the Cuban citizenry, from its persistent mobilization for freedom, which is its resistance movement. And this proposal of peace for Cuba has to include — inexorably — several cardinal issues:
• The total and real separation from power of the Castro family. Our country cannot be the property of a dynasty. Cuba was born of whites, blacks and Chinese to become a republic, the land of free men and women.
• The total separation of the Communist Party and the state. Cuban communists may have their party but never control the government of Cuba and subordinate it to their interests, as has happened for more than half a century.
• The liberation of all Cuban political prisoners.
• The legalization of the opposition political parties and the return of exiled Cubans.
• Free elections, under international supervision, for a Constituent Assembly.
• The creation of a Truth Commission that will rule on the direct responsibilities for crimes against humanity committed against the Cuban people by the dictatorship.
These issues and several more are included in a historic document titled “The Agreement for Democracy,” which was first signed by a broad majority of the Cuban opposition in 1998 and has subsequently been repeatedly ratified by Cuban oppositionists in Cuba and abroad.
I wish to close this first presentation by recalling a phrase from the man I quoted at the start: Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. He once said, “Our hope rises from our struggle.” He was right. We Cubans are struggling for change. We want peace for Cuba.
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” is the secretary general of the National Front of Civic Resistance Orlando Zapata Tamayo in Cuba. He gave this speech at Georgetown University on Sept. 16.