Cuba’s Problem Is a Lack of Human Rights, Not the Embargo


Editor’s note: this letter appeared in the October 27 edition of the Washington Post.

Conversations with the Cuban government, which have been maintained for decades by US congressmen, lobbies, nongovernmental organizations, businessmen, journalists, religious leaders, intelligence, and government officers, have hardly served democracy in Cuba. Nor has the US trade embargo.

Rosa María Payá (right) and her mother remember the death of democracy-activist Oswaldo Payá and reinforce their call for liberation in Cuba. (@RosaMariaPaya)

What Wayne S. Smith, Cuba project director for the Center for International Policy, said in an October 26 letter (“Keep the trade embargo?”) is a Cuban move “toward liberalization,” my father, Oswaldo Payá, called “fraudulent change.” The Cuban dictatorship that is supposedly changing is the one responsible for taking the life of my father and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. They refuse to allow an investigation of these deaths.

How can anyone know what “the overwhelming majority” of Cubans agree on if we have no access to mass media on the island and no citizen under the age of 80 has ever voted in free and pluralistic elections? Cubans deserve and have asked for a plebiscite to change our law, so that we can choose a legitimate government and hold it accountable.

Lifting the US embargo is not the solution, because it is not the cause of our lack of political and economic rights. I’m in favor of coherent communication, but engagement and dialogue should not be a reward for the military elite from Havana that imposes its monologic agenda on my people while fostering intolerance and hostility with absolute impunity.

Let’s not speak for the Cubans but support the right of Cubans to have a voice in Cuba.

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