74 Cuban Democracy Advocates Support Passage of Peterson Bill to Lift Travel Ban



Seventy four of Cuba's best known advocates of democracy released a letter today to "the Honorable Members of the United States Congress" expressing their full and unequivocal support for the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645).

The signatories, including Guillermo Fariñas, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Yoani Sánchez, Dagoberto Valdés and other leading advocates for democracy in Cuba, wrote:

We believe...that if the citizens of the United States, like those of the rest of the world, increased their presence on our streets, visited the families of the political prisoners and other members of the nascent Cuban civil society they could: first, serve as witnesses to the suffering of the Cuban people; second, be even more sensitized to the need for changes in Cuba; and third, offer solidarity and a bridge to facilitate the transition we Cubans so greatly desire.

The supportive presence of American citizens, their direct help, and the many opportunities for exchange, used effectively and in the desired direction, would not be an abandonment of Cuban civil society but rather a force to strengthen it. Similarly, to further facilitate the sale of agricultural products would help alleviate the food shortages we now suffer.

For the entire text of the letter including signers:

Letter from Members of Cuba's Civil Society to the U.S. Congress

June 9th, 2010 - Honorable Representatives:

We the members of Cuban civil society, who are signing this letter as individuals, have learned that you are currently considering the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645), to end travel restrictions on all Americans to Cuba and to remove obstacles to legal sales of United States agricultural commodities to Cuba.

We understand that this bill has the support of Republicans and Democrats in the Congress of the United States. We also know that for this bill to be considered by the full House of Representatives, it must first be passed through the House Committee on Agriculture.

We know that major non-governmental organizations support this bill, including, to name only a few: The United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Cuba Study Group and many other human rights organizations.

We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government, while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen our civil society.

We value the experience of all the western countries, including the United States, who favored opening and trade with all the countries of the former Eastern Europe. We are sure that isolation does not foster relationships of respect and support for people and groups around the world who are in favor of democratic changes in Cuba.

We would like to recall the memorable words of Pope John Paul II who, in his own life, had experienced a totalitarian and closed system: “Let Cuba open itself to the world and the world will open itself to Cuba.”

Over time we have seen that the Cuban regime does not open itself fully to the world, nor to its own citizens, because what it fears most is an opening, of free trade and of free enterprise, and the direct flow of information and communication between peoples.

Those who oppose H.R. 4645 argue that lifting these restrictions would be a concession to the Cuban regime and a source of foreign income that could be used to repress the Cuban people. They also argue that given the ongoing violations of human rights and the repeated acts of repression, lifting these prohibitions would be an abandonment of Cuban civil society.

It is true that repression and systematic violations of Human Rights have recently increased in a cruel and public way. It is true that these funds could also be used to support and even worsen repression.

We believe, however, that if the citizens of the United States, like those of the rest of the world, increased their presence on our streets, visited the families of the political prisoners and other members of the nascent Cuban civil society they could: first, serve as witnesses to the suffering of the Cuban people; second, be even more sensitized to the need for changes in Cuba; and third, offer solidarity and a bridge to facilitate the transition we Cubans so greatly desire.

The supportive presence of American citizens, their direct help, and the many opportunities for exchange, used effectively and in the desired direction, would not be an abandonment of Cuban civil society but rather a force to strengthen it. Similarly, to further facilitate the sale of agricultural products would help alleviate the food shortages we now suffer.

Above all, we believe that defending each and every Human Right for all people must be an absolute priority, ahead of any political or economic consideration, and that no restriction of these rights can be justified on economic, political or social grounds. We believe that rights are protected with rights.

Because the ability to travel freely is the right of every human being, we support this bill. The current Cuban government has always violated this right and in recent years has justified its actions with the fact that the government of the United States also restricts its citizens’ freedom to travel. The passage of this bill would remove this spurious justification.

Finally, Honorable Representatives, we strongly believe that the problems of Cuba and its path to freedom and democracy are a responsibility and a labor that belongs to all Cubans, those of us who live on the Island as well as those who suffer in exile in the Diaspora, who also love this nation we all share.

In the world today, all peoples of the earth are interconnected, even when their decisions are their sovereign right. These principles – of responsibility for our beloved country and of universal fraternity – encourage us to respectfully communicate our views to you with regards to this bill, because although it is the responsibility of Americans, it affects the Cuban people.

Thank you for your attention and respect.

1. Juan Juan Almeida García 2. José Alberto Álvarez Bravo 3. Silvio Benítez Márquez 4. Juan Carmelo Bermúdez Rosabal 5. Servando Blanco Martínez 6. Félix Bonne Carcassés 7. Luis Cáceres Piñero 8. Claudia Cadelo de Nevis 9. Leonardo Calvo Cárdenas 10. Eleanor Calvo Martínez 11. Marcelo Cano Rodríguez 12. Cecilio Dimas Castellanos Martí 13. Miriam Celaya González 14. Francisco Chaviano González 15. Hortensia Cires Díaz 16. Martha Cortizas Jiménez 17. Manuel Cuesta Morúa 18. Roberto De Miranda Hernández 19. Gisela Delgado Sablón 20. Reinaldo Escobar Casas 21. Oscar Espinosa Chepe 22. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández 23. Guedy Carlos Fernández Morejón 24. Juan Carlos Fernández Hernández 25. Karina Gálvez Chiu 26. Livia Gálvez Chiu 27. Margarita Gálvez Martínez 28. Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez 29. Joisy García Martínez 30. José Luis García Paneque 31. Juan del Pilar Goberna 32. Ricardo González Alfonso 33. Iván Hernández Carrillo 34. Maikel Iglesias Rodríguez 35. Irene Jerez Castillo 36. Yusnaymi Jorge Soca 37. Eugenio Leal García 38. Miriam Leiva 39. Gloria Llopis Prendes 40. Olga Lidia López Lazo 41. Yasnay Losada Castañeda 42. Luis Ricardo Luaces 43. Juan A. Madrazo Luna 44. Ainí Martínez Valero 45. Katia Sonia Martínez Véliz 46. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría, presbítero 47. Manuel Alberto Morejón Soler, presbítero 48. Félix Navarro Rodríguez 49. Jorge Olivera Castillo 50. Pablo Pacheco Ávila 51. Leonardo Padrón Comptiz 52. Héctor Palacios Ruíz 53. Gustavo Pardo Valdés 54. Yisel Peña Rodríguez 55. Ana Margarita Perdigón 56. Arturo Pérez de Alejo 57. Juana Yamilia Pérez Estrella 58. Tomás Ramos Rodríguez 59. Soledad Rivas Verdecia 60. José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, presbítero 61. María Esperanza Rodríguez Bernal 62. Lázaro Rosales Rojas 63. Elena Rosito Yaruk 64. Yoani Sánchez Cordero 65. Fernando Sánchez López 66. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz 67. Mayra Sánchez Soria 68. Pedro Antonio Scull 69. Sergio Abel Suárez García 70. Virgilio Toledo López 71. Dagoberto Valdés Hernández 72. Wilfredo Vallín Almeida 73. Alida Viso Bello 74. Liset Zamora