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Dialogue Without Frontiers
Friday, February 18, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

An alternative to violence?

Who knows where this will go, but maybe it will do some good.

As the Sun-Sentinel reports, Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya is campaigning for a peaceful transition of Cuba's government to democracy. He's calling on Cubans both on the island and outside to talk about how to shape a post-fidel Cuba. He's formed a group called, in English, Committee for National Dialogue.  He says he wants Cubans to decide the changes, and among the 110-members he has included an author - Carlos Alberto Montaner, and academic - Juan Clark, the founder of Brothers to the Rescue - Jose Basulto, and a former executive director of CANF - Joe Garcia.

"It's the first time Cubans on the island and in the rest of the world are working as one people with one objective," PayĆ” said Thursday at a relative's home, where the words "Dialogue Without Frontiers" were posted on the wall as a backdrop.

"We have different opinions, different expectations, but Cuba is our home and we have to get together," said PayĆ”, who in 2002 was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize, named after a Russian dissident.

Paya began the Valera Project, an attempt at peaceful change that was ruled "unconstitutional" by fidel.  Dozens of members and supporters were carried off to jail in a 2003 crackdown.

With the Dialogue effort, Paya says members of Cuba's government are welcome - even encouraged - to participate. He says Cubans need to decide their future course.

Some dissidents say attempts to talk with fidel will lead nowhere, but members of the Committee say the dialog will serve other ends. Garcia points out that fidel has always convinced the Cuban people that the alternative to his government would be a foreign occupation.  He says the Committee gives the Cuban people an all Cuban alternative.

Basulto says it's time to forget the idea that the U.S. government will topple fidel and to look for another way.

"I think this signals that the exile community is beginning to realize we are on our own and if we want to ... change the [Cuban] government we have to look for alternative ways," Basulto said. "Violence has failed. We have to look for our own tools to exert pressure."

I like what Basulto is saying, but after all the thinking I did about Jimmy Carter yesterday, I'm not sure I believe in talk anymore. You go and read the whole thing.



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