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Cuban Youth Build Democracy
By Luciana Grosu



07 of June 2008



Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina is the director of the Alternative Studies Center of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement. The Democratic Youth Movement was founded in 1994 in the city of Guantanamo, and works to denounce the violation of human rights. The movement is committed to defend freedom and justice in a peaceful and non-violent way.



Fight for freedom, fear of prison...


Prison is one of the main threats the Cuban human rights activists need to deal with.


In a phone interview from the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina explained he was retained by state security police around 9 PM on the evening of 31 April 2008 and only released the next day around noon. He was escorted by a police patrol a few kilometers outside the city without knowing the reasons he was retained for. The next day (1st of May), he was set free, but no one can say for how long.


The Democratic Youth Movement was planning to organize a civil march on the 1st of May, but the demonstration never took place. “They ( the authorities) are terrible afraid of the Opposition, or not the Opposition, let's say they are merely afraid of all the persons that dare to raise their voice , raise their head, of all the persons who dare to act in order to do break the slavery's chain", explains Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina.


Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina was arrested several times before (16 December 2005, 25 April 2006), but released due to international pressure. His older brother, Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, founder and the president of The Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement spent even more time in prison. He was recently released (in 2006) after six years of detention. The Cuban authorities accused him of "committing acts against the state", but Amnesty International declared him "a prisoner of conscience" ( prisoners of conscience are "people who are imprisoned by reason of their political, religious, or other conscientiously held beliefs or by reason of their ethnic origin, sex, colour or language, provided they have not used or advocated violence").


"Imprisonment is hard for any human being. We know of compatriots who have been spending 20-25 years in the prison because of their commitment to free thinking", expressed the human rights activist. "The government didn't cease to insult and denigrate them in order to convince the world and the Cuban society they are unworthy human beings. But they are Cubans with dignity and they are paying today the price for their refusal to remain enslaved", says Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina.


Despite the great dangers to face, none of the Cuban human rights activists is eager to give up the fight for democracy. "If it will be necessary, we'll be prepared to face death, too", firmly says the leader of the Democratic Youth Movement.



Educating Cuban youth….


"The Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement has assumed the mission of strengthening new groups of the civil society in order to prepare them

to fulfill functions that are essential for the reality of the nowadays Cuban society" , affirms Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina .


The Democratic Youth Movement supports various independent publications where youth are encouraged to express themselves freely. Education being one of their main areas of focus, the Movement's struggle remains peaceful. Yet, the mere ideological confrontation is already seen as a threat by the Cuban authorities.


The human rights activist was warned that continuing to give journalism courses to youth is illegal, although the interdiction is not explicitly mentioned in the Penal Code. "They say sharing knowledge is illegal. They say some government decrees and resolutions prohibit us to give classes to youth, to share knowledge! … But it's absurd! These are not terrorism courses; we don't teach young people how to put a bomb! We give journalism classes, we teach youth how to write, we teach them about our country's history! How could this be illegal?" expressed Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina with indignation.



….in order to join the Democratic Movement


Any Cuban youth can join the Movement, if he is determined enough. "He must be determined enough to break the terror barrier", Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina explains. "Cuba has been using the "politic of fear" for many years now. Their aim is to make people fear in order to make sure there will be no protests, no rebellion", he adds.


Yet, freedom is, first of all, a state of mind. "If a youth becomes eager to break this barrier of fear and terror and feel free in his thinking, in his conscience, in his acts, he can then integrate our Movement", says the leader of the youth organization. "This is the first step an aspiring new member should take: consciously take the challenge of facing the difficult times we are now living in", says Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina .


And…what will follow? "Next one should be capable of disinterested work, to commit oneself to this cause in exchange of nothing, in exchange of no material reward".


Democratic ideals are the strongest source of motivation of The Cuban Youth Movement. "We fight in order to preserve and pass on the knowledge of our ancestors, of those who died for a just cause.We fight for the future of Cuba, our country, in the name of the better society we all want for the generations to come", concludes Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina.



What the world should know…


The leader of the Democratic Youth Movement thinks the world should keep an eye on Cuba. "The international community should pay greater attention to my country. The Cuban government is exporting the idea that the society they've created is the best in the world", says Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina


As Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina affirms his country's government is constantly misinforming both national and international opinion, an active international observer is needed in order to make known the democratic forces' struggle.


"In my country, the rulers divided the concepts of democracy and freedom. They want the world to believe there is no violation of human rights in Cuba and that democracy actually exists and it's a socialist democracy", he further explains. "But we all know democracy is democracy, neither right, neither left, just democracy. And we all know there is only one freedom, neither right, neither left, just freedom ".


Actually, the international community didn't remain indifferent. The Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement organized various exchanges with European NGO's, especially Czech organizations. But a lot more can be done. "We would like to establish more partnerships with European youth or pro-democratic organizations that would be eager to embrace our cause, the Cuban people's cause", affirms Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina



….about the fight for university autonomy


The Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement’s main project calls for autonomy of all Universities in Cuba. This implies empowering universities to develop internal policies free from the government’s influence.


There are a few basic rights the Cuban Youth Movement advocates for: freedom of association for all students, the inviolability of the academic space (nor police, nor other officials should enter the academic space without the legal agreement of the university's authorities), the introduction of a civic education subject that could give students basic knowledge of human rights, the freedom to develop exchange and scholarship programs between Cuban and world universities.


Actually, the Cuban youth's desire to exchange ideas and share experiences with the world inspired the very name of the project "Universidades Sin Fronteras", which means "universities without borders".


The “Universidades Sin Fronteras” project was first presented to the Cuban authorities in 1996, when the Democratic Youth Movement was calling for the University of Havana, the Central University of Las Villas and the University of Oriente of Santiago's autonomy. A new and revised version of the document was presented to the government in July 2004.


Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina believes the Cuban government should consider "negotiating" with its people. "The pro-democratic forces in the island are demanding a space for dialogue. We want to be given the chance to talk about Cuba's future." The Democratic Movement wants to give back to the people of the island what they rightfully deserve. "We are only asking for what belongs to us as Cubans", expresses proudly Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina.



Luciana Grosu,

YHRM – Romania


2008/6/10 Silian Lin


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