.- The Latin American Democratic Bridge Network recently announced the creation of the “Prize for Democratic Openness in Cuba” and has decided to grant the first award to the Varela Project.
The network explained on its website that the prize highlights “the work of Cubans who, despite great obstacles, encourage their fellow countrymen to begin the path towards the transition to democracy.”
“The Cuban government has set up a one-party regime that represses the exercise of democratic freedom and prevents any type of peaceful political transformation. Any call for openness in Cuba implies having great courage and assuming enormous risks."
The Varela Project calls for democratic changes in country’s laws through a referendum.
The panel charged with selecting the recipient of the prize includes former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, Senator Soledad Alvear, Representative Patricio Walker and Peruvian Lourdes Flores Nano. The judges said the Varela Project has obtained “unprecedented citizen support within Cuba and has had enormous repercussions internationally.” They called the Varela Project “one of the peaceful initiatives within Cuba that has suffered the most in terms of the number of members imprisoned and given extended sentences during the wave of repression of March 2003.”
“The jury wishes to extend this recognition of the Varela Project to all the initiatives in Cuba that promote political openness through non-violent means and consequently respect for fundamental democratic freedoms,” the network announced.
The Latin American Democratic Bridge Network’s mission is to “promote democracy and human rights in Latin America through the creation of bonds of solidarity, dialogue and reflection between different people and entities of civil society who are already committed in their countries to democratic values.”