The 494 — A letter from Cuba’s pro-democracy activists

We knew it was coming, and now it has arrived.

In an answer to the letter by “The 74” prominent dissidents asking the US Congress to lift the embargo against the regime that oppresses them, we now have “The 494.”

494 pro-democracy activists in Cuba who have signed their names to a letter asking the US Congress not to reward the Castro dictatorship with billions of dollars of new revenue.

Below is the press release from Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s office with the text of the letter:

C o n g r e s s m a n

Lincoln Diaz-Balart


21st District of Florida

June 17, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

494 pro-democracy activists inside Cuba call on the U.S. Congress to retain travel and trade restrictions on the regime

Washington, DC- 494 Cuban pro-democracy activists have sent a letter addressed to all members of Congress asking them to maintain current U.S. travel and trade restrictions and to avoid any benevolent gesture toward the Cuban dictatorship so as to avoid complicity with the regime.

Below please read the text of the letter sent to members of Congress and signed by 494 Cuban pro-democracy activists within the island, including Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, Reina Luisa Tamayo (mother of Cuban martyr, Orlando Zapata Tamayo), as well as Ariel and Guido Sigler Amaya, among many others:

Statement of Principle From a Sector of the Democratic Opposition in Cuba to the Honorable Members of the Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives and all the Members of both Chambers of the U.S. Congress

Honorable Congressmen and Congresswomen of the United States of America:

We write to you – in this exercise of free speech and thought – based on complete respect for diverging points of view and within the spirit of democracy and utmost respect for differing opinions. We believe it is not reasonable, nor fair, to speak in a representative manner on behalf of Cuban civil society, much less, on behalf of the Cuban people, when it concerns H.R. 4645 – title given to the bill concerning the restrictions on travel to Cuba and the promotion of commerce with the island.

It is important to highlight that the total number of views expressed to date on both sides of this issue is not reflective of the views of the Cuban nation in its totality because only through — hypothetically speaking of course — the possibility of a referendum or plebiscite could the Cuban people have an opportunity to truly decide such a controversial issue. First and foremost, it should be noted that the main issue at the core of this polemic is the criminal and inappropriate conduct of the Cuban regime in the area of human rights, which remains under the supervision of the United Nations.

For those of us signing this letter, and other significant sectors of the Cuban people, we are interested — above all — on the lifting of the inhumane structural and institutional blockade of the Havana regime against the civil and political rights of our people, inherent in natural law.

The tragedy of Cuba does not reside in the right to travel of a people who are already free, such as the American people. The main problem resides in the absence of liberty for Cubans, the only citizens of the world who are denied the right to exit or enter their own country and where many find themselves in the condition of hostages.

At a moment such as this, to be benevolent with the dictatorship would mean solidarity with the oppressors of the Cuban nation.  The below signatories believe that the freedom of Cuba will not arrive by means of the pocket-book nor the lips of libidinous tourists, who are aseptic to the pain of the Cuban family. Rather, it will come through the efforts of those, who from within and abroad, fight for democratic change in Cuba.

Congressmen/Congresswomen, the cause of liberty, and firm opposition to the oppressive totalitarian dictatorship in Havana, is so sacred that it is above all economic and mercantilist interests.

We understand that we are living important moments for the present and future of our nation. The internal civil society movement has reached a peak moment regarding the current assertive policy by the international democratic community that has wisely taken the side of the oppressed and not of the oppressors.

We believe that initiatives such as the one this letter is responding to, even with the best of intentions, tend to deviate focus and attention from what is happening on the island. For that reason we suggest that you maintain a firm and coherent policy of pressure and condemnation toward the tyranny in Havana.  That will represent solidarity with the victims of repression in the homeland of Marti, Boitel and Zapata.

We respect other opinions and expect reciprocity regarding what we are conveying herein.  Honorable Members of Congress, since rights are defended by exercising rights, we are defending the right of all Cubans to be free through their own efforts, because we must not forget that the tragedy of Cuba is in the daily confrontation of the people with the dictatorship that oppresses them and not in scenarios outside of our current challenge or with initiatives that represent the granting of oxygen to the sinister totalitarian state that misgoverns our country.

Signed on June 14th, 2010

Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antúnez”

Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina

##########

Here is the list of all 494 signatures.

The original letter in Spanish is available below the fold.

Declaración de principios de un sector de la oposición democrática dentro de Cuba a los honorables miembros del Comité de Agricultura de la Cámara de Representantes y al total de los integrantes de ambas Cámaras del Congreso de los Estados Unidos en Washington, D.C.

Honorables Congresistas de los Estados Unidos de América:

Quienes suscriben haciendo uso del derecho a la libre expresión del pensamiento, sobre la base del respeto absoluto al criterio ajeno y dentro del mayor espíritu de concertación democrática y respeto a la diversidad, creemos que no es razonable ni justo pronunciarse de manera representativa a nombre de la sociedad civil cubana y menos aún en nombre del pueblo de Cuba, con relación al proyecto HR4645, título de la ley de reformas a las restricciones a los viajes y promoción del comercio con Cuba.

Es importante subrayar que ni la suma de ambas posturas referente al tema representa el criterio de toda la nación en su conjunto con derecho a voto, si aún se diera la hipotética posibilidad de referéndum o plebiscito en tal sentido, donde el pueblo cubano tuviera la oportunidad de decidir en tan escabroso tema. Máxime si se tiene en cuenta que una de las principales razones que dieron origen al polémico asunto radica en la conducta criminal e inapropiada del régimen cubano en materia de derechos humanos supervisada por las Naciones Unidas.

Para los que subscribimos, más otra parte significativa del pueblo cubano, nos interesaría antes que todo el levantamiento del inhumano bloqueo estructural e institucional del régimen de La Habana contra los derechos civiles y políticos inherentes a las libertades naturales de nuestro pueblo.

La tragedia de Cuba no radica en los derechos para poder viajar de un pueblo ya libre como el estadounidense. Su principal problema reside en la ausencia de las libertades conculcadas a los cubanos, únicos ciudadanos del mundo a quienes les es negado el derecho a salir o entrar a su propio país, donde muchos se encuentran en calidad de rehenes.

En momentos como estos, ser benevolentes con la dictadura significa el ser solidario con los verdugos de la nación cubana. Los abajo firmantes son del criterio que la libertad de Cuba no llega en los bolsillos, ni labios de un turismo libidinoso y escéptico con el dolor de la familia cubana, si no con el esfuerzo de los que dentro y fuera de nuestras fronteras luchan por el cambio democrático para Cuba.

Señores Congresistas, la causa de la libertad y la posición vertical contra la dictadura totalitaria de La Habana que oprime son cosas tan sagradas que están por encima de intereses económicos y mercantilistas.

Entendemos que vivimos momentos importantes para el presente y futuro de nuestra nación. El movimiento civilista interno ha llegado al clímax en lo que respecta la actual política asertiva de la comunidad democrática internacional que ha sabido ponerse del lado de los oprimidos y no de los opresores.

Considerando que iniciativas como la que esta carta responde, aún con la mejor de las intenciones tienden a desenfocar e incluso a desviar la atención de lo que sucede en la Isla, por lo que sugerimos se mantenga una política enérgica y coherente de presión y condena para con la tiranía de La Habana, lo que redundaría en solidaridad con las víctimas de la represión en la patria de Martí, Boitel y Zapata.

Respetando otros criterios expuestos y esperando reciprocidad a lo que aquí exponemos, señores Congresistas como los derechos se defienden con derechos, estamos defendiendo el de los cubanos a ser libres por sus propios esfuerzos, porque no puede olvidarse que la tragedia cubana está en el diario enfrentamiento del pueblo con la dictadura que lo oprime y no en escenarios fuera de nuestra problemática y menos aún en iniciativas que signifiquen la oxigenación del tenebroso estado totalitario que desgobierna nuestra Patria.

Firmamos la presente a los 14 días del mes de junio del 2010

Ex preso político Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antúnez”

Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina

25 thoughts on “The 494 — A letter from Cuba’s pro-democracy activists”

  1. Any idea who drafted this/collected the signatures? It’s only fair that we ask these important questions and apply that scrutiny across the board.
    If it was so unfathomable that 74 could coordinate the signing of a letter, why aren’t there expressions of skepticism when it’s close to 500 spread all across the island?
    There’s a lack of clarity (at least for me) on both letters. All things being equally unclear, though, this letter is very significant.

  2. Nick:

    Perhaps the letter of the “74” inspired these individuals. Perhaps it was easier to find 494 Cuban dissidents who believe lifting the embargo will hurt them than finding 74 who believe helping their oppressor will help them. Perhaps this has been in the works for months and to upstage them, whoever was behind last week’s letter stopped at 74 just to get it out first.

    Whatever or whoever was behind the first letter, they set the rules for this new game and by their own rules, they just got trounced.

  3. If we are willing to play by rules we’ve just finished criticizing, we’re all playing a very dangerous, divisive, and unproductive game.
    I, personally, am willing to trust that both letters were written honestly, with good intentions, but documented irresponsibly. But if we’re going to throw around accusations of Carlos Saladrigas’ conflicts of interest, what of LDB’s, who is about to step into the advocacy realm outside of Congress? Doesn’t his involvement, the PAC’s involvement, etc. warrant looking into?

  4. Nick:

    I guess it all comes down to intentions, Nick.

    You can’t really believe or say that LDB’s intentions are the same as Saladrigas’ intentions. As far as I know, LDB isn’t all set up to financially take advantage of the Cuban market if the embargo is removed as Mr. Saladrigas is.

  5. Nicolas,

    Looks like Alberto is in the right track.

    Honestly you’re beginning to portrait yourself as a very naive person because we all know who Carlos Saladrigas is and his pro-business with the Castro government agenda.

    And we’re not playing a very dangerous, divisive game here, we’re telling it like it is.

    Carlos Saladrigas is the one playing the divisive game that seeks to influence the US government to reestablish full diplomatic and trade relations with the Castro tyranny.

    In my book anyone who wants to do business with Havana is accomplice to the Castro brothers tyranny, that simple.

    Unfortunately Miami is full of these characters these days because of the current traffic between the USA and Cuba and the influx of people from the island the last 15 years, many of them willing to live in the luxury of US capitalism but at the same time sympathetic to the tyranny.

    That’s the sad reality we’re living these days. I say deport all these characters back to Cuba.

    I have been living in this town for over twenty years and never saw so many people here so obviously on the side of the Castro tyranny and willing to do business with the Castro brothers. This fact speaks volumes about what type of individuals these people are and their agenda.

  6. If he’s planning on making a living in activism (which he is), LDB is set to benefit financially from advancing his ideas, whatever they may be. He also needs votes from a majority that happens to buy into the same ideas he preaches. He’s not a congressman on a volunteer basis.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a free society with free markets and that’s true of anybody who does whatever they believe in full time (myself included).

    I don’t buy into a lot of the ideas Saladrigas has on trade and travel with Cuba, but to assume that it can only be motivated by a desire to make money dubiously from Cuba is an erroneous assumption. Couldn’t it also be that he thinks it’s best for Cuba (however wrong he might be) AND hopes he could make some money? Why does it have to be an either/or question? (Note I never said his intentions were good or bad… just that neither is necessarily true based on what we know).

    My point here is not to defend or denounce anyone. I just think it is a tad odd that the CSG released a letter where it was unclear who wrote it and who collected signatures and caught hell for it, but when LDB’s office does the same (releases a letter of unclear authorship and signature collection process), it goes unquestioned and is assumed to be authentic.

    Is it so irrational to think we ought to practice what we’re preaching on this sort of thing?

  7. By the way, I spoke to someone I trust who has been dealing with this personally, and I’m told Antúnez and Lobaina drafted the letter themselves.

    So if in the case of the 74, we’re so skeptical about who was feeding them the information about U.S.-Cuba policy, why don’t we bring the same skepticism and awareness of the situation on the ground to our view of this new “494” letter?

    Again, I believe that both groups of dissidents believe what they believe and there’s nothing wrong with people on this side of the straits providing their input—be it for or against current policy. But if those details are significant in one case, they ought to be significant in the other.

  8. Nick:

    There is a big difference between making a living advancing freedom and democracy, and making a living by making a deal with a dictatorship to provide loans to an oppressed population at 105% annual interest rates. Call me a stickler for what you might consider to be minor details, but I can’t overlook them. The devil is in the details, my friend.

  9. Carlos Saladrigas, Dwayne Andreas (Archer Daniel Midland, the largest processor of farm commodities in the United States) are behind the letter of the 74 dissidents. ADM has been dying to do business with Cuba since before their involvement with the return of Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hope that this letter, addressed to Congress, by 494 of Cuba’s opposition halts whatever these two (and others) are hatching.

    Tomas,

    The compiling of signatures for Saladrigas’ letter had been in process for a while, chances are that once Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello and others from the opposition got wind of what a group of so called “Cuban-American exiles” (with the help of American special interests) were trying to do, they started the ball rolling with a letter of their own. Did they have help from the Cuban-American exile community in composing the letter? Probably.

    IMHO, the letter written by the 74 dissidents is highly technical in its explanation of why the restriction need to be removed. whereas, the one written by the 494 addresses the immoral aspects of removing the restrictions. Which one do you think was composed, for the most part, by outside help? Having heard members of the opposition express themselves numerous times through letters addressed to the Cuban exile community, and on Ninoska’s radio program (during those times she’s able to call Cuba) everything mentioned in this letter has already been expressed many times and in many different ways by the opposition.

    Things in Cuba move very slowlyyyyy, but they can be done. The dissidence has the indirect help of the Cuban government, and the opposition has the determination, defiance and strong will to carry it through.

  10. You know, Nick, you’re expending a great deal of energy arguing what is for all intents and purposes, a moot point.

    At this juncture, it no longer really matters whether the 74 wrote their letter or it was written for them. What matters is that the CSG played an important role (Dagoberto Valdes attested to that), and that CSG is the one with the 10-million dollar fund ready to lend out to Cubans at 105% APR once the embargo is lifted.

    That’s the issue, Nick. And that is what pisses off people like me and others here. That is why we don’t trust a person or entity who has spent the last few years preparing themselves, afilando los cuchillos, to slice off for themselves a big chunk of filete before anyone else.

  11. I see where the Herald saw fit to bury the story of the 494 in a very small article concealed among many way in the back of the paper. Once again, the Herald proves which side they are on.

    Jimenez: You’re starting to get tiring to read. It’s because of people like you that Cuba is where it is today and why the US is heading in the same direction. As FFC stated, you are at best extremely naive, and at worst, you may be a closet sympathizer with the hideous belief system that rules that island and is trying to take over in this country.

  12. Ditto Mambi,

    I’m beginning to have my suspicions about nicolas too.

    Like Alberto said he’s spends too much energy defending the wrong side in the struggle for a free Cuba and that’s a red flag to me.

    The moment I read people like him I immediately start getting suspicious. Call me paranoid but, most of the time my instincts don’t betray me regarding these types of individuals.

  13. FFC & Mambi:

    Both Val and I know Nick and we have no doubts whatsoever he is one of us. He may have some ideas or concerns we do not share, but please guys, don’t doubt his allegiance to the cause of freedom in Cuba.

    Nick is a good guy and has done a lot of work to further the cause of freedom in Cuba.

    • As much as I’ve disagreed with him I concur with Alberto. When you’re young, you tend to possess a commendable idealism about ideas. Experience with humanity, however, will knock it right of you. I lost my idealist cherry a LONG time ago…

  14. Ok Alberto I take your word for it, just that some of his comments lead to suspicions on my part.

    You know what I stand for and that I don’t stand for duplicity and giving the benefit of the doubt to the wrong side (Nick seems to do so at time and I don’t like it, period).

    Therefore my previous comments towards Nick.

  15. Fine guys, I trust you. However, Nic needs to grow up and realize that evil never sleeps. Having been in that situation, I know what’s it like to believe in ‘peaches and cream and all is nice’ only to realize that it’s a vicious world, and that the Left never truly compromises. I’m like George, reality gave me a rude awakening, especially when I started to expand beyond the liberal indocrination we recieve from the school-house and the media. Hopefully Nic will come to that realization soon.

  16. Mambi,

    I remember Nic now as I spoke to him several times at Cuba Nostalgia this year.

    He sounded naive in some of his statements but I felt that his heart is in the right place as he explained to me his involvement and work with the dissidents in Cuba.

    I agree with you thought regarding the fact that Nic needs to grow-up and realize that the world is not peaches and cream.

    These young kids are idealistic and a product of our modern society and lefty academic system and sometimes they make those mistakes but, at least he’s on our side and doing much more than me to help further the cause of a free Cuba and for that I give him full credit.

    So Nick I’m sorry if I roughed you up a little but I hope you understand (I’m sure that one you’ll) where I was coming from.

Comments are closed.