Saturday, April 7, 2012

Carlos Saladrigas Speaks in Havana

Anti Castro activist condemns the blockade and urges support for the budding private sector
Sunday, 01 April 2012 07:40 Gerardo Arreola/la Jornada

Carlos Saladrigas appeals for an end to confrontation
By Gerardo Arreola
From La Jornada

Cuban American businessman Carlos Saladrigas, who over a decade ago was a prominent anti Castro hardliner in Miami, spoke today in public for the first time in Havana, under the auspices of the Catholic Church – Saladrigas rejected the U.S. blockade against the island and asked émigrés to eradicate the “confrontation model” and support, with resources, the budding private sector promoted by President Raúl Castro’s reform.

“A large part of that diaspora that we call exile has reached the conclusion that it is neither ethical nor sustainable to maintain policies or positions of isolation, alienation and economic sanctions that hurt our people, and even less when you do it through the intervention of a foreign country,” he said. “It is neither acceptable nor licit to harm the Cuban people in order to achieve a change of government”.

Saladrigas, 63, gave a lecture at the Félix Varela Cultural Center invited by Espacio Laical, a magazine of the Havana Archbishopric. The room was packed with some 100 people as diverse as the Vicar of the Catholic Church and essayist Carlos Manuel de Céspedes; academics Carlos Alzugaray and Esteban Morales; Pedro Campos and Félix Sautié, editors of the Socialismo Democrático y Participativo newsletter; members of the Communist Party and political opponents Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Miriam Leiva and Reinaldo Escobar.

"Cuba’s problems are many, but they are our problems, and we have to solve them among ourselves,” Saladrigas said.

“We are running out of time. Let us tear down the walls we have built and construct the necessary bridges, and let us face the task of building a new Cuba, a free, sovereign, inclusive, prosperous, diverse, wealthy, fair, equitable Cuba, one that is generous to the weaker sectors of our society.”

His emphasis on the solution among Cubans was equaled by his skepticism of Washington changing its policy toward the island in the near future. He even predicted that “it is very probable and possible that in the coming years we will see that Cuba is changing at a faster pace than the United States can react to.”

He also remarked that “nothing can have more impact” on U.S. policy than “Cuba’s aperture.”

A member of a family linked to the Fulgencio Batista regime deposed by the revolution in 1959, Saladrigas began the new relation with his home country almost a year ago when Palabra Nueva, another publication of the Archbishopric of Havana, interviewed him. At the time he launched the idea that emigrant investments should flow to the island, like China did in its time, and his words unleashed a controversy in Progreso Weekly, a U.S.-based digital magazine focused on Cuban affairs.

His conference in Havana is another step forward in his insertion in the Cuban debate.

He further elaborated on the need for change, both for the U.S. administration and the Cuban government, and also among émigrés and their local politicians.

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