Human Rights and
International Democratic Solidarity


Promotion of the Political Opening in Cuba


Testimony on the «II ForoAlternativo» to the CELAC Summit in Havana: a political success

By Manuel Cuesta Morúa

In the midst of preparations for the second “Foro Alternativo” to the CELAC Summit, under the heading “Human Rights and International Relations”, which we, a civil activist group, had planned to carry out on the 28th of January with the topic: “The special declaration of the CELAC to defend democracy and the incompatibility with the one-party system”, I was arrested by the political police.

My arrest took place on the 26th of January at midday in the town of Jaimanitas, north-west of Havana.

First I was taken to the 6th police unit in the town of Marianao and held custody for 40 minutes.

After that I was taken to the 5th police unit in the town of Miramar, where I was held custody until Thursday 30th at night. I was released under the charge of “Dissemination of false information against the International Peace” and with the precautionary measure to have to sign my presence every Tuesday in this police unit. The argument for this accusation is all that I have written and published about every possible issue - I do not remember if I have written about the physique errors of the “revolution”- mainly about racial topics.

During custody they took documents about the Summit of the CELAC, some press articles and one flash memory. While I was in custody, I was interrogated for a long time about the purposes of the second “Foro Alternativo”, and I was able to verify that my personal Internet accounts have been hacked for a long time.

They opened a judicial investigation against me, which included the collection of my fingerprints and DNA, photographs and documents of identification. They also took my declaration of my relations with foreign NGOs which I had always assumed and reaffirmed, are legitimate, open and public relations with NGOs, to which every Cuban has the right and which was never been considered as a crime.

There are three things I want to point out. Firstly, and after the usual threat, the political police tried to blackmail me by offering to dismiss my charges of supposed dangerous and illegitimate relations and release me immediately on the day of my arrest, provided that I dismount the organization of the second “Foro Alternativo”.  There is no doubt about my response.

Secondly, I assumed to testify about my open relation with foreign NGOs despite the penal and political risks which where entailed in Cuba because of this tie, because it seems important to me, also in political terms, not to generate confusion about the public and not secrete the nature of my relations with organizations from around the world. It is the only way to ruin the game and the conspiracy vision which is created by the political police and because I think that it is necessary to more transparently show these kinds of ties, which I consider to be legitimate regardless of their controversial character.

The public debate about the legitimacy of this kind of relation will be effective for their strategic legitimization. I assume the costs. In so far as Cuba does not enact a specific law-provision which criminalizes foreignaid, I am willing to assume the public risks of the debate in the current scenario of Cuba.

Thirdly, even though I was released with a charge which did not correspond to the reasons of my arrest and the criminal process which was opened against me, I think that the government wants to sentence me because of my ties to the enemy. The charge imposed is an operative strategy which fulfills three functions:  To make clear that I will be sentenced at some point, to prevent me from leaving the country as a symbol of punishment and respect the terms of time of the law, in a highly publicized case, which did not allow them to hold me into custody for another day.

I wish to conclude with the following consideration. Despite that we were not able to hold the event, I think it was politically successful. I assume the personal costs as typical of the fight for democracy. They can be considered absurd, but the Kafkaesque forms part of politics in a context of Kafkaesque.

Obviously it could have been organized better. I think, for example, that delegating parts of the organization to other participants, as an alternative plan, could have guaranteed more people in the meeting place. I assumed not to do so, because the pressure was immense and the unintentional leaks could have ruined my strategy: to prevent the political police from gaining knowledge about the meeting place and time, so that they could not organize an act of repudiation or any other repressive strategy.

In the end, the doubts about the meeting place made it possible, I think, so that at least a small group could go and so that a certain exchange could start. It was not, obviously the necessary quorum. In any case I assume valid,any and all criticism of my compatriots about the way I tried to organize the event.

The second “Foro Alternativo” was a success for the democratic Cuban history. The world could neither ignore the existence and capacity of the Cuban civil society nor illuminate the tension between a dictatorship which plans to exist without obstacles among the global democracies in the hemispherical rhetoric.

Certainly many of the democracies in our hemisphere are weak, despite what the media tells us. The lack of leadership is evident in a region that refused to connect fundamental values and integration proposals, as other regional integration efforts have done other, including in Africa.

That is why the CELAC is and will be a failure, as demonstrated by its absence in the Venezuelan crisis.

The lesson is that the American citizen is the best guarantee for the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights.Hence our commitment to celebrate the second “Foro Alternativo”, at some future date, has just been postponed.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa
Manuel Cuesta Morúa
Historian, political scientist and essayist. Spokesman for the Arco Progresista Party, he has written numerous essays and articles, and published in several Cuban and foreign magazines, in addition to participating in national and international events. In 2016 he received the Ion Ratiu Award from the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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