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Posted on Tuesday, 03.15.11

How best to empower Cuba's civil resistance

People-power revolutions have changed the political landscape of the
world over the last 25 years. Most, such as those in formerly Communist
Central and Eastern Europe, have succeeded. Others, as in China and
Burma, have failed for now.

In those where violence has broken out, it has been instigated by a
repressive regime rather than by the peaceful protesters who began the
movements. Where political change has been brought about civil
resistance, democracy seems to have taken a deeper hold.

Nonviolent popular revolutions have sprung from sustained
civil-resistance struggles. Wishful thinking did not cause these
transitions to materialize out of thin air. They were not products of
improvisation or spontaneous fortune. Disciplined and committed networks
of nonviolent human-rights activists worked courageously for years in
spite of persecution and to inspire populations, to organize
them along lines that constituted an alternative to regime control and
to propagate a consciousness that would result in increasingly active
noncooperation by the members of those oppressed societies.

The final acts in these social processes have brought us the dramatic
images of courageous people taking their sovereignty back from the grip
of autocracy.

As many look at the most recent wave of civic defiance in the Middle
East they wonder whether Cuba will be next, as well they should. Many of
the key factors present in other regime transformations are also present
on the island. Widespread citizen noncooperation confirms what survey
after survey indicates: Cubans desire to exercise their individual
freedoms, and they are frustrated by a political and economic system
that refuses to truly open.

Additionally, Cuban streets have been the stage for mass demonstrations,
as took place in 1980 in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana, in 1994 along
the Havana sea wall known as El Malecon, and in 2006 when the people of
Madruga rallied to defend their neighbors.

These instances of large-scale protests by the Cuban people are
important, but they are not the most significant development in Cuba's
path toward . What is critical is that an extensive
civil-resistance movement has flowered throughout the island. As the
release of dozens of over the past months shows, the
resistance has gained traction in its efforts. Many of these
organizations of human-rights defenders have come together in the
National Civic Resistance Front, led by former political prisoner Jorge
Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez.”

If the Cuban people are to have an opportunity, as befits them, to live
in freedom and dignity, then this citizen vanguard needs support.

This week, the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, which brings together
some of the main pro-democracy organizations of the Cuban-
community, will do its part to help those on the island by beginning a
drive titled “We All Are the Resistance” ( Todos Somos Resistencia) for
private support, on a person-to-person basis, for those in Cuba who are
leading the civil-resistance struggle for freedom.

Key artists in this community such as Willy Chirino, Donato Poveda,
Lissette and Luisa Maria Guell, as well as prominent civic leaders such
as former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, have lent their voices and personal
support to this important effort. They know that without with
which to transport activists, aid families of political prisoners and
empower civil society with the technology to connect to the outside
world the already heroic nonviolent fight of Cuba's dissidents becomes
even more difficult.

This aid cannot depend on the ups and downs of the foreign policy of any
one state, but instead on the steadfast conviction of Cubans that
freedom and democracy are intimately tied to their very sense of
solidarity and national identity and to the help that we, as free
citizens close to their shores, can offer them.

History has thoroughly ratified what ethics indicate: It is freedom and
not tyranny that is the best guarantor of stability. Without the peace
that Cubans need to live their lives as they see fit, Cuba will continue
to be an unpredictable den of oppression doomed to become a failed state.

Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat is a member of the Secretariat of the Assembly
of the Cuban Resistance in Miami.


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