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Letter to Lula da Silva: "Cuba no longer a symbol, no longer a taboo"

Saturday, March 20th 2010 – 04:05 UTC

Letter to Lula da Silva: "Cuba no longer a symbol, no longer a taboo"

Brazil and the community of Latin American countries are the only ones
with the ability to influence the Cuban government's position on human
rights and media , says a letter addressed to Brazilian
Lula da Silva by Reporters Without Borders.

Pte. Lula da Silva with former Pte. Pte. Lula da Silva with
former Pte. Fidel Castro

Cuban Orlando Tamayo death after 80 days of hunger
strike "must have personally affected you as a former government
opponent who was a victim of Brazil's military dictatorship" points out
the letter.

"Latin America, which has embarked on the road of unity and regional
integration, used to suffer from dictatorships and repression. The Latin
American democracies cannot continue to watch this situation drag on in
Cuba without reacting. On this sad seventh anniversary of the "Black
Spring," Cuba is no longer a symbol. Cuba is no longer a taboo", writes
Jean Francois Julliard, the organization's Secretary General.

Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
Planalto Palace, Brasília, D.F.

Dear Mr. President,

Appeals were addressed to you by Cuban dissidents following imprisoned
dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo's tragic death on 23 February. You were
in Havana when Zapata died after more than 80 days on hunger strike.
Some people accused you of taking too long to express your regrets at
Zapata's demise. Your comments nonetheless gave rise to hopes that you
could act as a mediator with the Cuban authorities on the question of
prisoners of conscience, as shown by the letter from a new Orlando
Zapata Committee that the Brazilian embassy in Havana received on 9 March.

Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends press freedom
worldwide, supports this initiative and urges you to act on it, despite
your reluctance. Brazil and the community of Latin American countries
are the only ones with the ability to influence the Cuban government's
position on and media freedom. Zapata's death personally
affected you as a former government opponent who was a victim of
Brazil's military dictatorship.

At the same time, you said you wanted to respect a key principle of
Brazilian diplomacy, which is to abstain from any direct interference in
another country's internal affairs. But in what way could reminding the
Cuban authorities of fundamental and universal principles – such as the
right to express one's views freely, the right to
and the right not to be because of what one says or writes – be
regarded as targeted and discriminatory interference?

In the course of a dialogue with Spain, the current holder of the
's rotating presidency, the Cuban authorities subscribed
to these principles by signing two United Nations conventions on civil
and political rights. But it now refuses to ratify them. Why?

Like us, you rightly condemned the extremely grave human rights
violations in Honduras after the June 2009 coup d'état. Brazil even
allowed its embassy to be a refuge for the democratically-elected
president who was overthrown by force. The Honduran de facto authorities
accused you of interference but all you did was take a stand against
injustice.

Must it be otherwise for Cuba, where 200 people are in prison solely
because they think differently from their leaders? They include 25
journalists, bloggers and intellectuals who are serving long sentences
just because they wanted to report the news without being controlled by
the government. One of them is our own correspondent, Ricardo González
Alfonso, who was given a 20-year jail sentence during the March 2003
"Black Spring." How could your government, which defends freedom of
and access to information for its own citizens, ignore this
appeal?

We are aware that Cuba has long been a symbol in Latin America. The 1959
revolution overthrew a dictatorship. For the past 50 years, Cuba has
been subjected to an absurd embargo that is unfair for the population
but useful to the government. During a recent visit to Haiti, which owes
a lot to the Brazilian presence, we were able to see the real
effectiveness of the Cuban medical brigades – a source of national pride
– in the assistance they were giving to the victims of the earthquake.

But none of this absolves the Cuban government of the fate it inflicts
on its opponents. It does not excuse the brutal treatment and
humiliation of journalists, activists, trade unionists and their
families. It does not justify the fact that Cubans are unable to access
the Internet freely or abroad without permission. But anyone
pointing out this other Cuban reality is unfortunately exposed to hate
propaganda from those who think they are protecting Cuba's honour but
are in fact just defending a regime that that has run out of arguments.

The future of Cuba and its institutions is a matter for Cubans, but
Cuba's human rights violations concern the international community and
the conscience of the world, as they do in any country where these
rights are flouted. To be respected, the Cuban government must be
respectable. That is the meaning of the resolution that was adopted by
the European Parliament on 11 March, in an almost unanimous vote
involving all of it political currents.

The need to act is urgent. The journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
has begun a hunger strike in Zapata's memory to press for the release of
prisoners of conscience. We urge him to stop but he says he is ready to
die. Other dissidents will do the same in the absence of any effort by
the Cuban authorities and if the silence from Cuba's brother countries
in Latin America continues.

How does the Cuban government respond to the distress of these people?
By persisting in its efforts to smear their reputation. Latin America,
which has embarked on the road of unity and regional integration, used
to suffer from dictatorships and repression. The Latin American
democracies cannot continue to watch this situation drag on in Cuba
without reacting. On this sad seventh anniversary of the "Black Spring,"
Cuba is no longer a symbol. Cuba is no longer a taboo.

I thank you in advance for your reply, which I undertake to publish,
with your agreement.

Respectfully,
Jean-François Julliard
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

http://en.mercopress.com/2010/03/20/letter-to-lula-da-silva-cuba-no-longer-a-symbol-no-longer-a-taboo

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