Freedom or Farce?
Examining The Varela Project
By Netfa Freeman & Shawn Sukumar
Observers may view “The Varela Project” as a popular challenge of the Cuban people against their government. The Varela Project, named after the Cuban priest, Felix Varela, is a petition initiative started in 1997 by Oswaldo Paya and other members of the Christian Liberation Movement in
Because of irrefutable evidence that the
In fact, it is not at all clear that Cubans started the
Varela Project. It has been well documented that the US government spends
hundreds of millions of US tax payer’s dollars to create a movement in Cuba
that is far from independent, primarily supported by the US government and
orchestrated by the most fascist elements in the Cuban-American
community. The Project is clearly endorsed and supported by some of these
elements. The seeds of such
Misinformation has perpetuated the myth that the 11,000 signatories of the Project are an indication that the Cuban people would like what the petition calls for. But how can 11,000 signatures out of a population of over 11 million (0.1% of the population) indicate the will of the Cuban people? Something of note but seldom, if ever, mentioned is that in June 2002 (subsequent to the submission of the Project petition) nearly 8.2 million Cuban citizens over the age of 16 (more than 99% of the voting population) in a popular plebiscite, voted in favor of a referendum to make socialism an “irrevocable” feature of the Cuban system.
”Socialism and the revolutionary political and social system established in the Constitution and proven through years of heroic resistance to aggression of all kinds and economic warfare waged by the successive administrations of the most powerful country that has ever existed, and having demonstrated their capacity to transform the country and create an entirely new and just society, are irrevocable; and Cuba will never again return to capitalism.”
When this fact is mentioned in mainstream media it is always accompanied by the absurd notion that the Cuban people were somehow forced into voting for this referendum. The international community is expected to believe that a country without the modus operandi of brutal dictatorships—that is, it has no death squads, no disappeared or tortured citizens, and has never attacked a demonstration in the streets—has somehow instilled a “culture of fear” into the hearts and minds of Cuban citizens . History teaches us that wherever there is mass oppression and repression people respond with mass civil unrest no matter what the consequences. History teaches us that there is no such thing as a level of repression that can force over 99% of a population to passively endorse something to which they are opposed or to constantly acquiesce to a government that they do not want. Mainstream media would not fail to report if there was ever a mass resistance to the government of
The details in the Varela petition are presented in such a
way that they are impossible to honor.
The text is a hodgepodge of legislative proposals conflictingly
integrated with constitutional amendments, which is incoherent by any legal
standard. The Varela Project proponents consistently imply that the 11,000
signatures on their petition obligate the Cuban government to implement a constitutional
referendum. However, the Cuban
Constitution suggests no such obligation.
Furthermore, such a thing would be ridiculous since that many signatures
could never be relied on to reflect the will of the Cuban masses and would
allow anyone who could garner 10,000 signatures to insist on a referendum. Under the Cuban constitution what the right
to present a petition does do is obligate the appropriate commission
(equivalent to congressional committees in the
Proponents of The Project also fail to mention that the Cuban government has issued an official response to the petition . They consistently allege that the petition was ignored, not to mention that they neglect to scrutinize the response of the government when going around the world to garner support for their “movement”. Project associates admit that Mr. Paya intentionally avoided receiving the government’s response so as not to “legitimize” the process . The law regarding petitions also stipulates that there must be 10,000 ‘notarized’ signatures and it was reported that the Varela Project signatures where never notarized.
Hierarchical conflict within the Cuban Catholic Church
should also be taken into serious consideration when evaluating the legitimacy
of the Varela Project. While The Project is noted as the brainchild of the
Christian Liberation Movement and claims to be advocated by the Church, it has
resulted in a split between a portion of the organized lay Catholics and the
At the heart of this split are Oswaldo Payá and Dagoberto Valdés, who had been engaging only in indirect ideological combat with the Cuban state through several organizations under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. Valdés began working with Payá in order to create a more proactive political stance among the Cuban lay Catholics and the
In summary, no matter what the origins of the Varela Project and no matter how genuine its original intent may have been, it currently only serves as a propaganda ploy favoring the foreign and illegitimate interests of those who seek to revert Cuba back to its pre-revolutionary subservience.
 “US Inspector General’s Survey of the Cuban Operation.” National Security Archive October 1961. (New York: The New Press, 1998).
conclusion is detailed by Mary Murray’s Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The
Constitution of the People’s Republic of
 Paya, Oswaldo. “Cloud
of Terror Hangs Over Cubans Seeking Rights.”
 Evenson, Debra. “Varela Project Memo.”
made by the Commission for Constitutional and Judicial Affairs of the National
Assembly that was given to Osvaldo Paya about his project date
was verbally admitted by Francisco De Armas, International Representative for
the Citizen’s Committee for the Promotion of the Varela Project at a public
forum about the Project hosted by Amnesty International,
Nelson P. “The Varela Project and the
Clash Within the Catholic Church in