Op-Ed

Let Cubans choose their own future

Cuban dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was detained by authorities on Saturday after mocking Fidel Castro’s death and severely beaten, according to relatives.
Cuban dissident artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was detained by authorities on Saturday after mocking Fidel Castro’s death and severely beaten, according to relatives. AP

The tyrant is dead, but his tyranny is still alive.

Today in Cuba, the communist Castro-totalitarianism regime survives the corpse of its most visible head. That is why the repression continues and in fact intensified a few hours after the news of Fidel Castro’s death, with the arrests and harassment of opponents.

And it is why the universal value of the right to decide our future must now take center stage. This is a right that belongs to all Cubans by virtue of our humanity. It is a right that has been violated for more than half a century and that today is denied to us by the Cuban constitution, which prohibits us, as a people, from determining the economic, political and social system under which we want to live.

One after another, the world’s authoritarians have proclaimed their mourning for Castro. From them, we expected it. But it is always disappointing, if not surprising, to see presidents of democratic countries and world religious leaders join the likes of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in sentiments of regret for Castro’s passing.

Castro died without facing the consequences of his actions, with impunity, but that record cannot be erased and should not be ignored. He is directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of more than 97,000 people, a number that accounts for only a part of the documented cases.

Among them is my father, Oswaldo Payá, who in 2012 was run off the road by agents of the Castro regime. Castro had vowed to take measures against my father, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, when the time was right. “We will act, come what may and whatever it costs,” he told Spanish intellectual Ignacio Ramonet.

And so we Cubans confront the double challenge of peacefully ending an orphaned dictatorship and dealing with the hypocrisy disguised as protocol from a good portion of the international community, including the European Union, the United States and the young Canadian leader Justin Trudeau. That’s part of the reason we have turned to basic values and undeniable principles to shape our future.

The Cuban people still live under a regime tailored by the Castro clan — communist and exclusionary. It is the same one that engendered and incubated Latin America’s so-called Socialism of the 21st century, the euphemism used to disguise and propagate authoritarian regimes in our hemisphere, with the support of the Cuban intelligence apparatus and petrodollars provided by Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Now, it is believed that its portion of the Colombian- Venezuelan drug trade, if it isn’t doing so already, will be the next source of sponsorship of Cuban totalitarianism.

That is why the Cuba Decide initiative invites everyone, including the mourning international leaders, as well as presidents-elect and incumbents, to support holding a binding plebiscite in Cuba on the option of exchanging tyranny for a democratic system. It is the only tool remaining to guarantee that all of our citizens will be able to design their own future, and so to start a transition that cannot truly begin until all Cubans are a part of it.

The mobilization of citizens in favor of a binding plebiscite is the path we will use to liberate ourselves and to liberate Latin America from the interference of the Cuban government through its state security- that is, from the imperial voracity of the Castro regime to reproduce and perpetuate itself despotically across Latin America. We hope we can count on the unwavering support of the world’s democracies in the rightful demand of our liberties, and in their solidarity and timely denunciation of all the crimes committed by the Castro regime.

The international community’s support is the only protection that Cuban families can turn to in the face of state repression at the hands of Raúl Castro and his cronies. We hope that we will not be left alone in our peaceful struggle for a life in truth, and that the world will not, through the complicity of silence, share in the responsibility for the death of the next martyr of Cuban dissidents.

Rosa María Payá is president of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.

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