Freedom and Rights Forum Declaration

The announcements made by U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration have triggered an intense debate about the Cuban problem.  Many of those in the opposition and activists from civil society, both inside the island and in exile, have lamented, above all, the lack of transparency and unilateral and unconditional character of the new measures announced.

It is indisputable and indispensable that Cubans be primarily responsible for the fate of our nation, but we also expect an effective commitment from the democratic community for the defense of fundamental freedoms and the establishment of the rule of law in Cuba.

Those of us who experience the abuses of the Cuban regime daily and those in exile who suffer and have suffered from the totalitarianism in their home country, are vital players in the process of transition. Ignoring many of our voices and acting from only one perspective of the problem weakens objectivity and endangers any political dialogue.

We are faced with two options. First, to accept the transformation of the regime to authoritarian capitalism where Cubans will have to settle for meager handouts, while the inheritors of Castroism dispose of our rights ans wealth. Second, to demand concrete and measurable changes that are conducive to the establishment of a true democracy.

The demand for the restoration of our freedoms is a necessary prerequisite for achieving a successful political transition. During these 56 long years of one-party dictatorship, activists and the opposition have repeatedly demanded the full exercise of freedoms inherent to human beings, often paying a high price for such claims.

The violation of fundamental rights in our country is validated under the current legal system. We therefore believe that the ratification and particularly the legal implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, with their optional protocols, serves as a key instrument and roadmap for solving the Cuban problem. Similarly, the guidelines of the International Labor Organization will provide us with an accurate idea of how to work on the legal system regarding labor issues and trade union freedoms.

We hope that Latin American countries, the European Union, Canada, the Holy See and the United States, as important political actors in the Cuban issue, join us in this fair and urgent demand. We have used as a reference the association agreement signed between the EU and Central America in 2012, with a clear emphasis on respect for human rights and democracy promotion.

Upon ratification of these agreements, we propose the following roadmap to ensure the effective and prompt implementation of the commitments made:

  • The immediate release and cancellation of sentences against all prisoners arrested for political reasons (to decree amnesty)
  • On the Constitution, laws, regulations, procedures and administrative practices: the abolition of all articles that violate the International Covenants and restrict liberties on freedoms of expression, association, assembly, movement, conscience and religion, economic and cultural rights. To establish full guarantees for the exercise of those freedoms
  • On the Penal Code: the elimination of the clause of pre-criminal dangerousness, as well as all rules that can contribute to arrests, arbitrary detentions and acts of harassment that violate the agreements made
  • The restoration of constitutional-level judicial guarantees and the right to due process
  • New Law of Association that includes a multiparty system and guarantees for freedom of assembly. Concerning trade union rights, standards set by the International Labor Organization should be taken into account
  • New Media Law guaranteeing freedom of expression and the free flow of information
  • New Election Law (Restoration of National Sovereignty)

We believe that every step should be conditioned on the progressive advance of the roadmap indicated above, sustained on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our ultimate goal is to move toward becoming a true democracy, with political pluralism, judicial independence, freedom and human rights. Where a Cuban, through consultations and a process of free and transparent elections, as well as the creation of a constitutional assembly, can define the destiny of our nation.

All genuine actors of the opposition and civil society, through their projects and demands both on the island and in exile, must play an active role in any process that seeks a solution to the Cuban problem.

At stake is the very future of the nation. We exercise this great responsibility which has fallen to us.