In an emotional message sent via internet, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, called on Cubans at home and abroad to overcome their hurt and their desires for vengeance in order to establish a dialogue that will bring reconciliation to the country.
In his letter, Paya recalled his own years of captivity as a young man. “I do not remember them with hatred,” he said, despite having been obliged to “work ten hour days like animals, dressed truly in rags and sleeping and being transported like livestock.”
Paya recalled that at the work camps, thousands of young people “saw their lives destroyed forever. Religious brothers and sisters, children of emigrants who were not allowed to leave the country because they were of military age, children of political prisoners, homosexuals, anyone that the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution deemed to be deviant, and even those who liked rock music, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, all suffered confinement,” Paya said.
“Thousands of the young and not so young were expelled from universities and their places of work and incarcerated solely for freely expressing themselves or for not expressing their unconditional support [for the regime].”
According to Paya, injustice does not begin “when someone decides to remain abroad and say what he has not said up that point. I understand the reaction of many artists and intellectuals to seeing someone who has hurt them on television and who at one point in time violated their rights in the name of and with the power of the revolution. I support the right to protest and the claims of artists and intellectuals who have been affected. Many Cubans, millions, see things on television every day that hurt them and which they would like to respond to, but they have no voice, and the artists and intellectuals who do have one do not speak for them.”
“It’s a right of all Cubans that the historical memory be opened, but there is a greater right, which includes the former, and that is that a new horizon of freedom and rights for all be opened. Not in an atmosphere of settling scores but rather of reconciliation and liberation. For these ideals peaceful Cuban political prisoners are behind bars,” he added.
Drawing upon his own experience of suffering, Paya called on “intellectuals, journalists and artists who live in Cuba and who live abroad, from all positions and walks of life,” to embrace “humility and the option for the person, for the people. More than demanding justice for a group of individuals for a dark period they suffered, this option for the people, for solidarity, means defending the rights of freedom of conscience and of expression for all Cubans, and promoting the national dialogue that our society needs.”
“Cuba needs dialogue between free persons in order to open this horizon,” Paya stressed. “A dialogue without boundaries or exclusion. Perhaps we cannot agree about the past, but we have the responsibility to agree with each other about the future, to spread hope. In this spirit we can usher in a new time for the new generation which has the right,” he said in conclusion, “to make its own time, its own life, in freedom and in brotherhood.