Dissidents Want Political Change

Friday, April 15, 2011
From Deutsche Presse:
Dissidents want political change, not just economic reform

Cuban dissidents say that the economic reforms slated for consideration at this weekend's Cuban Communist Party congress do not go far enough.

For them, real change - not just the tweaks in Cuba's socialist economic model intended by party leaders - means that economic reforms must go hand in hand with political opening.

During a recent visit to Cuba by US former president Jimmy Carter, dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, who was awarded the 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament, presented a 'roadmap for change' on the island.

The document demands that parties other than the Communist Party be allowed, that a referendum be held asking Cubans whether they accept 'free and democratic elections with a new electoral law,' and that the freedoms of expression, press and association be respected.

'The Communist Party can only do good if it gives back to the people what belongs to the people: full rights and sovereignty,' Paya said. 'Let no one speak for all the people - ask the people in a referendum.'

Before the Communist Party congress, Paya said that 'the solution lies not in savage capitalism and its privatizing frenzy, nor in savage communism with its single party and its single super- capitalists.'

'Neither the market nor the state,' he said, 'must be above the people.'

Frequent hunger-striker Guillermo Farinas, the 2010 Sakharov prize winner, said the Cuban economic model 'needs to be changed, not updated,' as Cuban President Raul Castro describes his reforms.

Farinas played down the credibility of debate prior to the congress, with assemblies in neighbourhoods and workplaces where Cubans were asked their opinions on proposed economic reforms. Such debate, he said, is an 'act of propaganda and demagogy' that is done 'under the absolute control of the party itself.'

'In earlier processes of this type, either popular opinion was not taken into account,' he said, 'or no one knows where it went.'