We welcome the news that Fidel Castro has stepped down as Cuban leader. Forty-nine years as the head of a dictatorial regime which has deprived the nation of truly free elections is hardly an honorable mark of distinction. The time for a change had long been overdue. Sadly, Fidel’s abdication has not been meant to give way to a pluralistic democracy, like the one the Cuban people deserve and which is enjoyed by the most stable and prosperous nations in the world, but to perpetuate tyranny on the island.
This is unacceptable. Cuba must be free and independent. Cuba cannot continue to be the anachronistic communist exception in a world that many years ago and after decades of repression and inefficiency decided to discard this political theory. Almost every country that was once compelled to submit to the ideas of Marxism Leninism recovered or welcomed back democracy after a short period of time. Cubans as well have the right to be free. As one of the leaders of the democratic opposition, Oswaldo Payá, argues: “The Cubans have the right to their rights”.
Which rights are these? Basically, the ones defended in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ironically, although the Republic of Cuba is signatory of this declaration and his government has never revoked it, it keeps violating the rights it enshrines.
Despite the current situation being received with great skepticism, we would like to encourage the new President and the new members of the Cuban government to implement as soon as possible the real changes that their nation needs. We would also like to reiterate our commitment to the Cuban people and reinforce our promise that we will not give up on our endeavor to support them for as long as:
Prisoners of conscience remain condemned for dissenting with the official dogma.
Cubans cannot freely associate with one another to express their beliefs in the various organizations they have spontaneously created.
Freedom of speech and expression does not exist on the island.
The official intolerance and persecution continues.
People are not allowed to freely enter and leave Cuba.
On the other hand, when the transition towards democracy and liberty truly begins, we firmly commit to employ all necessary resources to make it succeed in the shortest possible time and under the best economic conditions. When that moment comes, Cuba can be sure that just like today, all its people and specially those who have been victims of the dictatorship will no doubt count with our support and solidarity.
Václav Havel – former President of the Czech Republic
Carlos Alberto Montaner – Cuban writer and journalist
José María Aznar – former Prime Minister of Spain