Español“You abandoned us at Havana!” Cuban dissident Veizant Boloy shouted his indignation towards Secretary José Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States (OAS) outside the convention center, where the 44th OAS Assembly is taking place in Asunción, Paraguay.
This is the first time in half a century that Cuban dissidents have been allowed to participate in the regional event, and Boloy did not waste his opportunity to speak up and tell Insulza what he thought about his indifference towards the Cuban opposition when he visited the island back in January.
To these remarks, Insulza replied to the Cuban dissident, “I didn’t see you there.”
“You couldn’t see me. I was in jail, just like all the other defenders of Cuba‘s democracy — something you knew yet did nothing to stop,” Boloy stated.
“It’s a pleasure, later we can keep talking,” the OAS secretary replied, talking over the Cuban representative, as he continued his way up to the convention center.
Boloy is an independent lawyer for Cubalex — a nonprofit organization that offers Cubans free legal aid — and his claims towards Insulza aren’t unfounded. In fact, they are motivated by Insulza’s compliance with the Castros’ regime during the CELAC summit, which took place in Havana in January.
Government officials from throughout Latin America and representatives such as Insulza from international organizations gathered at that time in Havana to discuss democracy in the region. At the same time, however, about 250 political dissidents were arrested for organizing a parallel forum that aimed to debate human rights in Cuba. The detainees included Lilvio Fernández Luis of the Active Youth Movement for United Cuba (JACU) and several members of the Ladies in White.
Boloy, one of the main organizers of the parallel gathering, was among those arrested. With his right to make a call denied, and the rest of the organizers arrested as well, the dissidents’ forum had to be suspended.
The OAS secretary, who attended the CELAC summit as an observer, became the first secretary general to visit Cuba since the country was banned from the organization in 1959. During his visit, Insulza was pleased with the results and described his experience as “instructive.” Nonetheless, he refused to meet with the Cuban political opposition, and remained silent towards these acts of repression.
On Monday of this week, one day before the OAS assembly got started, Boloy, alongside other activists from Cuba and Venezuela, used the opportunity to attend an international forum sponsored by the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL) — an Argentina-based nonprofit that promotes democratic values.
Gabriel Salvia, director of CADAL, also sought to attend Boloy’s parallel forum in Cuba back in January, but was detained at the Havana airport, and banned from entering Cuba. He was immediately deported back to Argentina.
While the motto of the OAS assembly was “development with social inclusion,” Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents gathered to discuss instead, “is development with social inclusion possible without democracy?”
Other Cuban activists, such as Leonardo Calvo, national deputy coordinator of the Citizen Committee for Racial Integration (CIR) and Kirenia Núñez, a member of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), also participated in the forum.
The Latin-American Network of Youth for Democracy in Cuba was another sponsor for the panel. According to Nazly Escalona, coordinator of the organization, “Cuban youth don’t have other means to make themselves heard, different from the ones offered by the Communist Party Youth, and we all know that one party doesn’t represent all opinions in one society.”
Regarding the OAS refusal to let the regime’s opposition participate in sessions, Escalona asserts, “today the OAS views states only as [those in] governments, but who listens to organizations and citizens?”