Although the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama served as a forum where the peoples of the Americas were forced — once again — to choke on the barbarian mouthful of that old subject that is Cuban totalitarianism, hope is renewed by the attitude of consistency and solidarity assumed by the diverse civil society of the Americas.
Today in Cuba, a self-transition from “Power to Power” is being cooked up that tries to ignore the will of the Cuban people and its exiles, while enthroning the military elite after a masquerade of reforms that decriminalize certain economic concessions but continue to hijack all the rights of the citizenry.
After landing in the sister nation of Panama, I re-experienced firsthand the repression offered by the Cuban regime. The sincere apologies of the Panamanian Foreign Ministry lose force in the face of all the abuses it allowed to take place against the independent civil society of Cuba and all of the Americas.
[Ms. Payá was detained and interrogated at the airport upon her arrival in Panama, for which the government later apologized. Civil-society representatives were also the targets of insults and boos at public forums from Cuban government representatives, and a pro-Castro mob attacked some anti-government protestors at another venue.]
Only Cuban civil-society activists and the foreigners who work with us were threatened and detained in Panama. But there were no consequences for Cuban State Security agents — such as Alexis Alfonso Frutos Weeden — who beat their peaceful countrymen openly in the street, simply for thinking that our beloved Cuba deserves, after more than half a century without plural elections, an alternative to totalitarianism. Similarly, these agents boycotted the discussion tables of civil society and beat accredited foreigners.
As in Cuba, so in in Panama as well:
The Cuban opposition has been found a priori guilty in the eyes of authority. The marvelous isthmus thus turned into a suddenly repressive place. Hence, we civil society members elevate our demand for democracy in Latin America to the Organization of American States, in hopes of catching less indolent ears than those of the OAS’s outgoing secretary general.
However, the documents read in the plenary session at the end were indeed the consensus of the civil society of all of the Americas. The regime’s rudeness did not serve it well, as before the intolerant cry of “There will be no Forum,” the consistent voice of Latin American civil society was raised, supporting the implementation of “binding mechanisms for consulting the citizenry, such as plebiscites and referendums.”
Civil society forged networks to demand a life in truth. We young Latin Americans refuse to be subjects of alliances and hegemonies that, with a rhetoric more or less revolutionary, claim the lives of Venezuelan or Mexican students, gag the press in Nicaragua or in Ecuador, and condemn Cubans to a dynastic totalitarianism in perpetuity.
As my father Oswaldo Payá said so many times before his extrajudicial execution in Cuba on July 22, 2012: Dictatorships are not of the left or the right; they are just dictatorships. Because rights have no political color, no race, no culture. Because the dignity of the human person is an inalienable gift far beyond the markets and the State.
For this reason we are now working on the citizen initiative Cuba Decides, which proposes holding a plebiscite, which we presented in the parallel summits and in the Civil Society Forum in Panama.
After decades of dictatorship, the Cuban government does not represent the people. Nor do we pretend to speak for all Cubans, but we do want the Cuban people to have a voice.
The world’s democracies have the opportunity today to pay less media homage to handshakes between the elected president of the White House and the hereditary general of the Plaza of the Revolution, and to prioritize the agenda of accompanying Cubans in our liberation, asking the people in a plebiscite to return to us our sovereignty.
Rosa María Payá is the daughter of the late Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Payá.