Cablegate: Follow-Up May 21 - Day of Solidarity with Cuban
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O 150002Z MAY 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 STATE 051536
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PHUM PREL KPAO SOCI CU
SUBJECT: FOLLOW-UP MAY 21 - DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH CUBAN
REF: (A) STATE 46997, (B) STATE 45792
1. (U) This is an action message; see paras 3-9.
2. (SBU) Per reftels, Embassies have been asked to
undertake activities and encourage host governments and
NGOs to undertake activities for a day of solidarity with
the Cuban people on May 21. For post information only,
President Bush is expected to host an event at the White
House in honor of Cuban civil society and to highlight
political prisoners on May 21. This event has not been
announced officially, so posts are asked not to share this
information. This cable provides guidance and
instructions for posts' reference and requests response
cable reporting on actions taken in Host Country.
3. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: As per the NSC, all posts are
requested to confirm via front channel cable all
activities or actions to be taken by the post and/or the
Host Government in support of the Solidarity Day event,
such as a human rights related event with local NGOs. At
a minimum, all posts should seek to place an editorial
under the Ambassador or Charge's signature in a major
local newspaper. (See paragraph 9). In addition,
descriptions of activities sponsored by posts (such as
round-tables, exhibits, movie showings, etc.) as well as
activities sponsored by host country nationals whether
NGOs or Government officials should be confirmed and
4. (SBU) A large number of Posts have responded to
reftels with their plans for Cuba Solidarity Day. All
Posts planning events/outreach, including those that have
already reported, are requested to report and/or reconfirm
plans and activities NLT OOB Monday May 19. Slug
responses for your Regional Bureau Public Diplomacy
Affairs Office (PD Desks). In addition, all Posts are
requested to send after action reports and media coverage,
per White House request, NLT COB Thursday, May 22, to your
Regional Bureau Public Diplomacy Affairs Office (PD
Desks). Post should urge NGOs hosting events and
activities to list their events in www.solidaridadcuba.org
which provides a pinpoint map mechanism to track events.
Events or activities wholly sponsored by the USG should
not be posted on the web site.
5. (U) Paragraphs 6-9 provide documents which have been
cleared by the White House and are for use in connection
with Solidarity Day activities.
-- Paragragh 6 "Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People"
contains a backgrounder for embassy's internal use,
explaining the genesis and rationale for this event.
-- Paragraph 7 "Demonstrating Solidarity with the Cuban
People's Struggle for Freedom" is a fact sheet regarding
May 21 activities.
-- Paragraph 8 "Responses to Anticipated Negative
Reactions to Cuba Solidarity Day" contains points for
posts to draw from on an "if asked" basis.
-- Paragraph 9 "Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People"
is the cleared op-ed for posts' use.
6. (U) Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People
At an April 7, 2007 conference on Cuba in Miami, Commerce
Secretary and co-chair of the Commission for Assistance to
a Free Cuba Carlos Gutierrez announced that the USG would
participate in a "Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People"
on May 21. The purpose of this event is to promote
peaceful democratic change in Cuba by showing broad
international support for the Cuban people.
The current regime in Havana seeks to legitimize itself
both at home and abroad, undertaking various economic
initiatives, none of which addresses the economy's
fundamental flaws, nor addresses the human rights and
fundamental freedoms denied to the Cuban people. Raul
Castro's succession to power was carried forward without a
democratic vote by the Cuban people.
For these reasons, the President of the United States will
host an event on May 21 in support of a "Day of Solidarity
with the Cuban People" to focus on the plight of prisoners
of conscience and the lack of civil and political freedoms
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This date coincides with a period when Cubans all over the
island commemorate Cuban patriots who have suffered at the
hands of the regime for the cause of freedom and human
rights, including the anniversary of the death of Pedro
Luis Boitel, a poet-activist who died on May 25, 1972 at
age 39 while on a hunger strike in Cuba's "Castle of the
A Call to Action:
Democracy activists and non-governmental organizations
plan to demonstrate their support for human rights on the
island during the mid-May timeframe.
The people of Cuba need to know that they have world-wide
solidarity and support for their efforts to achieve
genuine political and economic change in Cuba.
We ask other countries to join in this effort to highlight
the deplorable human rights situation on the island and
the need for the unconditional release of all political
prisoners, including Dr. Oscar Elas Biscet, who received
the Presidential Medal of Freedom in October 2007.
We urge countries to draw attention to the plight of
Cuba's approximately 240 prisoners of conscience plus the
additional 5,000 sentenced for dangerousness with a call
for legitimate democratic transition in Cuba by:
- Holding a press event;
- Issuing a statement; and
- Encouraging NGOs to organize events and issue
Cuba remains a nation where the people are denied the most
basic freedoms and opportunities, freedoms that
governments in our hemisphere, except for Cuba, have
agreed to honor and defend in the Inter-American
Democratic Charter, and much of the world community,
including Cuba, has promised to honor through the UN
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We will call on the Cuban regime to allow its citizens to
exercise internationally recognized civil and political
rights and freedoms and unleash the potential of the Cuban
people to give them an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of
democracy and the benefits of a 21st century economy.
United States policy remains clear and strong: we seek a
free, just, prosperous, and sovereign Cuba to join the
community of democracies in the Americas. We want the
Cuban people to freely and democratically define their
7. (U) Demonstrating Solidarity with the Cuban People's
Struggle for Freedom
To promote peaceful democratic change in Cuba and show
support for the Cuban people, May 21 will mark a "Day of
Solidarity with the Cuban People." The day will focus on
the plight of prisoners of conscience and the lack of
civil and political freedoms in Cuba. The Cuban regime
denies its people the most basic freedoms and
opportunities that are enshrined in the Inter-American
Democratic Charter, the UN Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and
Political Rights. The current regime seeks to legitimize
itself both at home and abroad through initiatives which
fail to address fundamental economic flaws or promote
basic freedoms denied to the Cuban people. Raul Castro's
succession to power occurred without a democratic vote by
the Cuban people.
Countries and civil society groups worldwide have an
opportunity to join Cuban democracy leaders and non-
governmental organizations in commemorating May 21 as a
"Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People". Democracy
leaders and non-governmental organizations plan to
demonstrate their support for human rights on the island
during mid-May when Cubans across the island traditionally
commemorate Cuban patriots who have suffered at the hands
of the regime for the cause of freedom and human rights,
including the anniversary of the death of Pedro Luis
Boitel, a poet-activist who died on May 25, 1972 at age 39
while on a hunger strike in Cuba's "Castle of the Prince"
prison. The people of Cuba need to know that they have
worldwide solidarity and support for their efforts to
achieve genuine political and economic freedom in Cuba.
Demonstrate your solidarity for Cubans' struggle for
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- Holding a press event;
- Issuing a statement; and
- Encouraging NGOs to organize events and issue statements
-- Highlight the deplorable human rights situation on
-- Call for the unconditional release of the
approximately 240 prisoners of conscience (including Dr.
Oscar Elas Biscet) plus the additional 5,000 sentenced
-- Call for the Cuban regime to allow its citizens to
exercise internationally recognized civil and political
rights and freedoms; and
-- Call for legitimate democratic transition in Cuba.
Freedom supporters in Cuba seek a free, just, prosperous,
and sovereign Cuba to join the community of democracies in
the Americas and want the Cuban people to define their
country's destiny freely and democratically.
Key Cuba Solidarity Day Website Links: Please link to
these important Websites from your home page and encourage
visitors, members and affiliates to sign the petition.
- www.solidaridadcuba.org is a useful resource for the
international community about how to participate in Cuba
- At www.peticioncuba.org you can find and sign a
petition for the release of Cuba's political prisoners.
8. (U) Responses to Anticipated Negative Reactions to
Cuba Solidarity Day
A. CUBA SOLIDARITY DAY IS A U.S. PROPAGANDA EXERCISE
RESPONSE: The U.S. and other governments are joining NGOs
and citizens of democratic countries all over the world to
show solidarity with Cubans seeking peaceful democratic
change to their country. Together we are calling on the
Cuban regime to allow its citizens to exercise these
internationally recognized civil and political rights and
freedoms and unleash the potential of the Cuban people to
give them an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of democracy
and to build a 21st century economy. The U.S. advocates
on behalf of human rights and democracy around the world.
It's a cornerstone of our foreign policy.
B. U.S. PUBLIC PRESSURE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE; ENGAGEMENT
RESPONSE: Putting a spotlight on the plight of hundreds of
political prisoners and their families who suffer in Cuba
is the right thing to do. Cuba needs to let these people
return to their families and permit them to fully exercise
the rights as they agreed to under the U.N. Declaration of
Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. History shows that the most effective
way to protect victims of human rights violations is by
shining a light on government abuses.
C. CUBA HAS SIGNED U.N. RIGHTS COVENANTS AND IS ENGAGING
WITH THE U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
RESPONSE: While Cuba has signed the international human
rights Covenants, it remains to be seen whether they will
proceed with ratification and actually implement the
obligations set forth in these instruments. We note that
the Cuban government continues to hold hundreds of people
prisoner simply for disagreeing with their government,
with many sentenced to jail terms of 20-25 years. The
regime in Havana has not taken any steps to dismantle the
apparatus of control and repression it uses to detain and
harass Cubans for peacefully expressing dissent. It has
denied access to most UN Human Rights Council officials
and ignored repeated requests by the International
Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban jails.
D. U.S. POLICY HAS FAILED TO BRING CHANGE TO CUBA
RESPONSE: The dictatorship in Cuba has failed to bring
the real change that Cubans across the island increasingly
want. Cuba's democratic future will be determined by
Cubans in their country. The sovereign people of Cuba
deserve the same right to choose their government through
genuinely free and fair elections that citizens in their
neighboring countries do. It is time for Cuba to rejoin
its neighbors, to meet the standard set by the region in
the Inter-American Democratic charter.
E. U.S. SANCTIONS HURT THE CUBAN PEOPLE
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RESPONSE: U.S. policy denies resources to the Cuban
dictatorship and encourages private support that directly
benefits the Cuban people. The U.S. is the largest source
of private humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people,
adding up to some $240 million in 2007.
F. DISSIDENTS ARE PAID U.S. MERCENARIES
RESPONSE: Cubans who advocate peaceful democratic change
for their country are patriots. Democratic societies have
an obligation to support and accompany people in
dictatorships who seek freedom through democratic change.
Societies that recently made the transition from closed
societies understand the value of international solidarity
and have in particular been firm supporters of the Cuban
G. RAUL CASTRO IS A REFORMER; GIVE HIM A CHANCE TO MAKE
RESPONSE: Measures decreed by Raul Castro to remove some
elements of the extraordinary restrictions placed on
Cubans do not address the fundamental flaw in Cuba's
command economy-it is run from the top down. They are
tactical changes by the current government designed to the
mitigate calls for real change on the island. They do not
dismantle the repressive apparatus of state control nor
improve the conditions of the people of Cuba. The
Washington Post points out that Cuba's so-called reforms
in agriculture fall short of steps taken years ago by
H. THE U.S. IS HOLDING 5 CUBAN "HEROES" PRISONER AND
REFUSES TO LET THEIR WIVES VISIT
RESPONSE: The Cuban government acknowledges that the so-
called "Cuban Five" are agents and officers of Cuba's
foreign intelligence service. They were convicted in 2001
of having committed crimes in the United States as part of
a spy group that Cuban intelligence called the "Wasp
The U.S. has granted visas for dozens of relatives to
visit these prisoners. The U.S. government has not granted
visas to the wives of two of the prisoners. One of these
women was a member of the Wasp Network who was deported
for engaging in activity related to espionage and is
ineligible to return to the United States. The other was
a candidate for training as a Directorate of Intelligence
U.S.-based spy when U.S. authorities broke up the network.
9. (U) OP-ED: Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People
On May 21 we will celebrate the courage and determination
of the Cuban people as they seek their freedom and voice
in establishing a democratic future for their country. On
this day, in the United States and elsewhere, we will
commemorate a Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People.
We will call for the release of all Cuban political
prisoners and repeal of all measures that allow the Cuban
government to arrest citizens for carrying out acts of
peaceful dissent. Cubans need to know that they have
international support in their struggle for freedom and
human rights, as the people in Central Europe once did.
(Posts may want to mention any planned local activities
There has been much talk in the media about the recent
changes that have been announced in Cuba. Yes, Raul
Castro has replaced his brother in some of his positions
of authority, but this is a process in which Cuba's
citizens had no say. And yes, Cubans can now buy cell
phones and microwave ovens and stay in five star hotels.
While Cubans may welcome such changes, they are no doubt
hoping for much more. With the average monthly wage in
Cuba at less then $20, these items are still largely out
of reach and won't let Cubans do what citizens in other
countries in the Americas are doing: seizing the
opportunity provided by open societies and open markets.
The sad fact is that Cuba's citizens still live in a
repressive state, as they have for almost half a century.
Last December, Cuban authorities stormed a Catholic
church, tear-gassed parishioners, and dragged 18
worshipers out. A Catholic official called the episode,
"the worst attack against a church in 45 years." And just
a few weeks ago, the "Ladies in White," who march
peacefully each Sunday on behalf of freedom for their
unjustly imprisoned loved ones, were beaten and dragged
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away from the " Plaza of the Revolution" when they sought
to deliver a petition to their government asking for the
release of political prisoners. Is this change?
So how will we know when an enduring process of democratic
change is underway on the island? We will know there is a
new Cuba when Cubans have the freedom to organize,
assemble, and speak their minds. We will know there is a
new Cuba when a free and independent press has the power
to operate without censors. We will know there is a new
Cuba when the Cuban government allows Cubans to open their
own businesses and improve the economic well-being of
their families. Above all, we will know there is at least
a start towards a new Cuba when the regime releases its
political prisoners and engages the Cuban people in an
open and comprehensive dialogue about the future of their
Solidarity with the Cuban people means supporting their
struggle to obtain all the freedoms enumerated in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as those in
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Cuba recently signed the latter agreement, but when will
the government's actions comport with their commitments?
As any Cuban political prisoner can attest, the Cuban
state hasn't implemented the provision that says: "No one
shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment." Indeed, Cubans have
been arrested and foreigners expelled for handing out
copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
On May 21st the United States Government will join in
solidarity with the Cuban people, particularly the
prisoners of conscience on the island who remain behind
bars. We hope you, too, will mark May 21st with a
special observance in honor of the people of Cuba who
continue to fight for the right to be free.