It is still too early to determine whether the letter released yesterday written to the US Congress, which was supposedly signed by 74 prominent Cuban dissidents, is a fraud or authentic. Capital Hill Cubans reported this morning that they were able to confirm some of the signors were not aware of the letter’s content or intentions, and others confirmed they were not aware of the letter at all.
No other sources, however, have come forth to either prove or disprove the letter’s authenticity. Until then, I believe it prudent to withhold the final verdict on the letter’s legitimacy. Nevertheless, there are a few aspects regarding this letter and the circumstances surrounding it that deserve further scrutiny.
When I first heard of this letter, my reaction was incredulity and suspicion. This doubt was not so much based on the premise of the letter—we all know there are dissidents in Cuba who oppose the embargo—but on the logistics of such an exercise. How, I asked myself, does a relatively large group of dissidents that finds it next to impossible to communicate with each other on the island and even more difficult to meet in person, manage to collaborate, review, edit, and finally agree on such an important document that bears their signatures and consequently, their implicit approval? The improbability and the sheer difficulty of such a corroboration led to other observations that caused further doubt.
Usually, a strong worded statement such as this, created by such a relatively large and well-known group, is a product of a cohesive sentiment that has been jointly expressed in the past by the majority. Other than Yoani Sanchez and a handful of other dissidents making sporadic and anemic statements in favor of lifting the embargo, there has never been a large unified call by dissidents on the island to end the embargo. With no strong statements or unity on the subject ever expressed by the dissidence in Cuba in the past, the letter, and the unity in purpose it attempts to portray, seems to have been an immaculate conception of sorts. From practically nothing came something very big and very meaningful.
Another odd aspect I found after reading the letter both in Spanish and in English was the manner in which it was written; it is obvious that the dissidents themselves did not write it. With little access to news or the ability to research American law, there is very little probability that they would know the actual name of the law being considered in congress, let alone its number, without someone on the outside providing it to them. And I find it hard to believe they were able to find out on their own just where the proposed law stood in the process of passing it and what it would take to push it forward. There is nothing wrong with someone in the US informing them of the proposed law and its status, but reading the letter and the points it expressed, one can see that it virtually touched on every single anti-embargo talking point used by Cuba trade proponents here in the states. That brings me to the next peculiarity of this letter that casts doubt on its authenticity.
The letter was released by the Center for Democracy in the Americas. This dubious organization happens to be the home for the equally dubious Julia Sweig, and an organization that has lobbied for the end of the Cuban embargo for a very long time. It seems strange that an entity that has done little to nothing for dissidents in Cuba suddenly becomes the mouthpiece for the political opposition on the island. Like the immaculate conception of this letter I referred to earlier, the relationship between the Center for Democracy in the Americas and the island’s dissidence also seems magically to appear out of nowhere.
The most puzzling aspect of this letter however is to find the names of Guillermo Fariñas and Claudia Cadelo attached to it. Although anything is possible, I am still having a difficult time believing they actually signed this letter. Were they coerced? Were they misled as to what the letter said? Were their signatures forged?
Until each and every signature is confirmed we will not know if this letter is an authentic expression of the position held by 74 dissidents in Cuba, or a scandalous fraud. If it indeed turns out to be a fraud, it was perpetrated by a vile and malicious cadre of self-interested individuals playing with the lives of not only the dissidents, but an entire nation.