Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Miami Declaration in Little Havana

In remembrance of October, a month which includes Cuban milestones like the "Grito de Yara" (a proclamation of independence from Spain) by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (October 10, 1868) and the beginning of the Ten-Year War in Cuba, La Unidad Cubana organized a special meeting in Little Havana yesterday in celebration of "El Exilio" in Miami and also to make public their "Miami Declaration."

Henry Gomez from Babalu blog was at the Manuel Artime Theater last night and describes a full house with more than 800 in attendance. Veterans of the 2506 Brigade were there, as well as US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Orlando Bosch. But, it was Armando Perez-Roura who everyone waited for that night.

Besides being the programming director at Radio Mambi, Perez-Roura is also the Chairman of La Unidad Cubana, a group that acts as an umbrella organization of various other exile groups who reject dialogue with the current Cuban government, and support "internal resistance by all means" to overthrow it. The Unidad Cubana website is filled with several measures that plan for a future free Cuba, such as several Spanish versions of UN human rights declarations, and "drafts" that outline laws and regulations for a future Cuba.

Ariel Remos for Diario Las Americas provides a report about last night, basically summing up what Perez-Roura said, and provides a copy of the "Miami Declaration" (described earlier last month by Diario las Americas as a "historic document"). But, Remos doesn't mention that the document is essentially a more developed version of what Perez-Roura, and Unidad Cubana, has been publicizing since last year, but which includes some very revealing and troubling additions nonetheless.

Last October, Perez-Roura made a similar declaration (also published by Diario Las Americas, and also described as "historic") that outlined the same concerns and promises made last night. This 2006 declaration had five important points [condensed]:

- Unconditional release of political prisoners and an end to internal political oppression in Cuba.
- Creation of a transitional Government that allows democracy and freedom of all rights.
- Creation of an assembly to create a new Constitution, which in the meantime shall operate under the 1940 Cuban Constitution.
- Recognition of political parties and a date for immediate elections.
- Establishment of the rule of law to protect everyone during the change to a new Republic.

Another similar declaration and the same five points were repeated in January, and now we have the "Miami Declaration." The "Miami Declaration" is far more specific than its two predecessors. It includes 20 points (!) that highlight a transition to a free Cuba, but nevertheless still doesn't explain how this change will begin. One is left to assume that these "concrete steps" follow a popular uprising, or a violent intervention, that paralyzes Cuba in the near future.

I won't go over every step, but I want to first point out that this new Declaration by Unidad Cubana, and based on the guidelines stressed by the "drafts" on their website, seems to violate the very principles they support, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Last night, Armando Perez-Roura said that "the Communist party will be eradicated" in a future Cuba. This statement was repeated today on the 6pm Radio Mambi show La Mesa Redonda reiterating that the Cuban Communist party will be permanently banned in a free Cuba. Such a law would violate Article 2 of the Universal Declaration:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

Article 7 also has relevance:

"All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."

What has been publicly declared and documented against the Communist party by Unidad Cubana in the "Miami Declaration" could lead to several other human rights violations, which would certainly lead to further conflict, not peace.

The other worrying points I see belong to the creation what they call the "Investigation Commission of Crimes" and the "Independent Court of Justice." The "Miami Declaration" gives no indication of how these organizations will be created, and neither does the Unidad Cubana website detailing the "independent" court, despite the admission that they "examined" the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute, and the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals. Given their partial position against the Communist party, one should worry about the impartial selection of investigators and judges for the commission and "Independent Court of Justice." Unidad Cubana should review the UN report that they have on their website stressing the impartiality of a Truth Commission and a Tribunal.

Most of the other points seem obvious (but with suspicion on their implementation), yet the most surprising point in my opinion calls for the formation of "professional economic advisors" to plan and implement the recommendations of the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. This point is very controversial, and will be met with great opposition, even by Cuban dissidents.

In conclusion, I think the "Miami Declaration" has serious faults which should be clarified or changed, but given that these points were made by those who call themselves proud "intrasigentes," then I see a very difficult road ahead to a free Cuba.

An alternative to the "Miami Declaration" lies with the National Dialogue by the Varela Project. But, it includes points that are completely detested by Miami hard-liners, such as amnesty for some violators (which is supported under UN guidelines), preservation of some social institutions in Cuba (opposite of the "total change" called on by Miami hard-liners), and the organization of a national dialogue that leads to national election (the dialogue includes exiles, but limits their participation in early elections in the transition).

No wonder Oswaldo Paya (leader of the Varela Project) is considered a "traitor" by some exile hard-liners, as he seeks a peaceful change in Cuba, not a violent purge.


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