The director of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, challenged the Castro regime to publish the Varela Project and “to publicly commit itself to respecting the right spelled out in article 88 of the Constitution that allows citizens to exercise this legal initiative.”
According to the Cuban Constitution which is supposedly recognized by the Castro government, if citizens present a petition with 10,000 signatures calling for a referendum, it must be put to a vote. However, since 2002 the Varela Project has collected more than 25,000 signatures, but there has been no response from the government.
The Varela Project is calling for democratic changes in country’s laws through a referendum.
“Because the Varela Project flourished, the Cuban government imprisoned 75 Cubans in March of 2003. Dozens of them remain in prison. That is the truth even though many wish to hide it. It’s like denying the reason for being of these prisoners of conscience,” Paya said.
Paya demanded the release of all prisoners of conscience and asserted that the Varela Project remains relevant because “it continues to make history, and it will open the door to peaceful changes, to a different life that all Cubans long for.”
He denounced efforts to stop the initiative through imprisonment and repression and said that despite tactics by those in power to discourage participation, the Varela Project will move forward. Such efforts reveal “a fatal alliance against the freedom and hope of Cuba,” he added.
Paya warned that to say that Cubans are able exercise their rights is a great lie and is humiliating for the people, who know they are not free. This lack of freedom means that the majority live “in poverty and with no opportunities.”
“Cuba needs changes, the people want changes, but these changes are wrongly defined. Changes mean freedom and rights. Thus the first step that is just in and of itself, the step that can no longer be delayed, is the release of all those imprisoned for political reasons,” Paya said.