Cuban reform leader demands respect for rights on the island

.- Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Varela Project, which seeks a referendum to bring about democratic changes in Cuba, announced his support this week for the United Nations’ condemnation of the U.S.-led embargo against Cuba, but called on the organization to be just as “intense” in its demand for the release of political prisoners and for respect for human rights on the island.

A day after the U.N. General Assembly denounced the Cuban embargo by a vote of 179 to 3 in favor, with 2 abstentions, Payá released a statement concerning a group of political prisoners who are on a hunger strike. Seven dissidents imprisoned in region of Holguín have been on a hunger strike since October 18.

In his statement, Payá, who is also founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, asked the Assembly to also condemn “the cruelty of the Cuban government.”

“If the governments represented at the U.N. are truly concerned with the well-being and rights of the Cuban people and are morally consistent, they should demand the government of Cuba stop the cruel and degrading treatment of political prisoners, and release them,” Payá said.

Other non-violent opposition leaders, including Vladimiro Roca, also expressed satisfaction with the U.N. vote—which has rejected the embargo for 12 consecutive years—but they questioned the triumphalism displayed by Fidel Castro’s government in light of the U.N. statement.

“How can it be that Cuba demands the UN General Assembly’s resolutions on the embargo be respected when it refuses to respect the 13 resolutions that this same assembly’s Human Rights Commission has passed (since 1989),” Roca asked.

Roca also said the UN should condemn the government of Fidel Castro “for having embargoed all of our rights as citizens.”


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