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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 president
    Lula da Silva by Reporters Without Borders.

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

    Cuban dissident 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 . 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 human rights 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 freedom of movement
    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 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
    "." How could your government, which defends freedom of
    expression 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 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 freely or travel 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 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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