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Debates
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition

8. Award of the Sakharov Prize (formal sitting)
Video of the speeches
PV
MPphoto
 

  President. − Dear President-in-Office Chastel, dear High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Lady Ashton, dear guests,

 
  
 

(PL) The Sakharov Prize is a symbol of the European Parliament in the fight for respect for human rights throughout the world. The empty chair standing in the middle of our Chamber testifies to how very much this is needed and how very necessary it is to draw attention to the most important examples around the world, today, of people who are fighting for freedom of expression. I did write to the President of Cuba to ask him to allow Mr Fariñas to come to Strasbourg, but unfortunately this did not bring the desired result. On Friday, there was a similar empty chair in Oslo, meant for the imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo. On previous occasions, other winners of the Sakharov Prize – Hu Jia from China and the ‘Ladies in White’ from Cuba – have not been able to receive the award in person. Oleg Orlov, who was presented with the Sakharov Prize last year on behalf of Memorial, is not with us, today, although he was invited to the ceremony.

Ladies and gentlemen, Guillermo Fariñas has been awarded the prize for his fight to restore freedom of speech in Cuba. For years, he has actively opposed censorship, has risked his life and health, and has gone on hunger strike 23 times. He has spent 11 years in prison. Recently, while on hunger strike, he was close to death, but just then opposition figures and prisoners of conscience in Cuba began to be released. Great credit is due, here, to the Catholic Church. Just as was once the case for us in my country, the Church is filling the role of institutions of civil society for the people of Cuba. Unfortunately, 11 people are still in prison, and among them are the husbands of some of the ‘Ladies in White’. Here and now, on behalf of us all, I call for their immediate release.

(Loud and sustained applause)

I quote from the resolution we adopted in March, in which we call on the High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commissioner for International Cooperation immediately to begin and to organise a dialogue with Cuban civil society and with those who support a peaceful transition in Cuba. We still have before us, today, a debate on the Andrikienė report on human rights in the world 2009 and EU policy on the matter. We will, therefore, be able to find out what Mrs Ashton’s plans are for strengthening Union human rights policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the fact that people such as Guillermo Fariñas are being persecuted and imprisoned, their voice cannot be silenced. The role of the European Parliament and the role of every one of us is to strengthen that voice. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that in a moment we shall listen to a message, a short speech, which has been recorded for us by this year’s winner of the Sakharov Prize, Guillermo Fariñas. This point should be the moment at which the certificate is presented to the laureate. Unfortunately, I shall be forced to place the certificate on the empty chair, but I hope you will permit me, on behalf of us all, to wish our laureate much strength and health, success in the fight for liberty and, finally, that he will be able to come to us here in the European Parliament in the future and receive his certificate and the prize in person. Thank you very much.

(Loud and sustained applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Guillermo Fariñas (PPE).(ES) A message to the European Parliament: Santa Clara, 14 December 2010

Dear Mr Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament,

Dear Vice-Presidents and honourable Members of this multi-national democratic forum,

Unfortunately, for want of the tolerance that we so much need on this tormented planet of ours, I cannot be with you as a representative of the Cuban people in rebellion and those Cuban citizens who have lost their dread of the totalitarian government which has been repressing us for a shameful total of 52 years, whose latest victim is the martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Unluckily for those who misgovern us in our own homeland the fact that I cannot leave and return voluntarily to the island where I was born is, in itself, the most irrefutable witness to the fact that unfortunately, nothing has changed in the autocratic system ruling my country.

In the minds of Cuba’s current rulers, we Cuban citizens are just like the slaves from whom I am descended, kidnapped in Africa and brought to the Americas by force. For me or any other ordinary citizen to be able to travel abroad, I need a Carta de Libertad, that is a Freedom Card, just as the slaves did: only today it is called a Carta Blanca, a White Card.

My deepest hope is that you will not allow yourselves to be deceived by the siren songs of a cruel regime practising ‘wild communism’ whose only desire, after pretending to make ostensible economic changes, is that the European Union and the European Parliament will rescind the Common Position, and allow the regime to benefit from the loans and investments used to help Third World countries under the Cotonou Agreements.

Former political prisoners or prisoners of conscience, recently released by ‘wild communism’, will surely have taken their seats alongside you. It would be a mistake to think that they were set at liberty; they and their families are subject to ‘psychological banishment’, because their nearest and dearest were blackmailed by the neo-Stalinist Cuban Government.

We, the peaceful opposition within Cuba, take a stocial, rational approach to the material or spiritual difficulties we suffer, as we do to the risk of losing our freedom and even our lives, being as we are part of the leastfavoured sector of the population. Here, inside Cuba, we are all suffering, but we do not complain, for that reason we hope to be able to rely on your support.

Dear Members of the European Parliament, I ask you not to give in to the claims of the Cuban ruling elite, unless the following five demands are met:

First: continue with the release, without banishment, of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and make a public commitment never to imprison non-violent political opponents.

Second: put an immediate end to the violent beating-up and threatening of the peaceful opposition within the country by the regime's military and paramilitary followers.

Third: announce that all Cuban laws which contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are to be examined and repealed.

Four: grant the wherewithal, in daily practice, for establishing opposition parties, mass media not subordinate to the ‘State socialism’ system, independent trade unions and any other kinds of peaceful social bodies.

Five: publicly accept that all Cubans living in the diaspora have the right to take part in Cuba's cultural, economic, political and social life.

At this crucial juncture in the history of my country, you and all men and women of goodwill throughout the world need to pay close attention to the continual social outbursts and protests within Cuba, caused by frustration in the face of the overweening power of a government capable of issuing the order to murder my compatriots.

I hope to God that there will be no unnecessary civil war between Cubans due to a blind refusal to accept that the political model of ‘State socialism’ has been and is a failure wherever there has been an attempt to introduce it: something acknowledged by the historic leader of the ill-named Cuban Revolution himself in the foreign press.

The old men who govern Cuba, in their daily contempt for those they govern, do not wish to understand that they should be public servants, and that all genuine public servants give their compatriots the possibility of replacing them or endorsing them. No person in power should seek to be served by those he governs, as is the case in Cuba.

With our sisters and brothers in the struggle who share democratic ideals, with those who are still in prison, those who enjoy ostensible freedom in the streets, and those who have departed into the harshness of exile, we shall continue our unequal non-violent struggle against the Castrist oppressors, and with the help of God, we will win the battle without bloodshed.

If there is one thing that I do in the company of my dissident colleagues, it is to banish any rancour against my political adversaries from my soul. The fact is – and this makes us better human beings to tackle the task of rebuilding our homeland – that in this struggle I have learned to be guided by the words of the first known dissident, Jesus Christ: ‘love thine enemies’.

I thank the European Parliament for not abandoning the Cuban people in these more than 50 years of the struggle for democracy. In accepting the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience that has been awarded to me I do so because I feel myself to be a tiny part of the rebellious spirit that nourishes the people I am proud to belong to.

I am extremely grateful to you, ladies and gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, for this gesture shows that you have not forgotten the sufferings we endure, and thus your gesture brings the light of freedom that much closer to my country.

May God grant that in Cuba we shall shortly see reconciliation amongst His children, and that the country will be blessed with democracy.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández

Qualified psychologist

Librarian and independent journalist, three times imprisoned on political grounds

(Applause)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Stavros LAMBRINIDIS
Vice-President

 
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