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5th Anniversary Speech

Words by CCF president Ismael Sambra
September 20, 2003
at Sandy Hill Community Centre, Ottawa

Good evening ladies and gentlemen:

Once again we have the pleasure to welcome you to our events, which this year has a special significance for our organization: this is the first time we celebrate our anniversary in the Ottawa Delegation of the Cuban Canadian Foundation.

What kind of organization are we? We are a Cuban-Canadian project for a free Cuba by peaceful means, an independent organization responding to the interests of the Cuban-Canadian community and the Cuban people.

On behalf of the board members, the support group, the membership, and thousands of Cuban exiles living all over Canada, we work day by day to find the best way to a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.

Dear friends: when we speak about Cuba we cannot forget mentioning the large number of Cuban dissidents, opponents, human rights activists and independent journalists who suffer under the regime's repression, many of them in jail with long sentences, whose only crime was to voice democratic ideas and love for freedom.

In the hardest repressive wave of recent times, the Cuban regime imprisoned 75 dissidents, journalists and librarians. Among those who received sentences of between 20 and 28 years are the laureate poet Raul Rivero, founder of Cuba-Press; Doctor Oscar Elias Bicet, founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights; and the prominent economist Martha Beatriz Roque. This respected leader of the civil society was a member of the well know “Group of Four” whose release from prison was requested by Prime Minister Jean Chretien during his visit to Cuba in 1998. But the Havana regime gave a negative response to this very special petition.

These actions by the Cuban Government has brought many world leaders and people around the world including numerous Canadians to the realization that it is not possible to build a reasonable relationship and much less to implement a “constructive engagement” with that cruel dictatorship, which has committed the extreme injustice of executing three young black people for trying to escape in a kidnapped boat from the Jail-Island that is Cuba.

That is why we are asking you in this special day for solidarity, understanding and help to achieve a peaceful change toward democracy in Cuba.

Dear friends, five years ago, in my speech at the official presentation of this Foundation I delivered the following message:

“…I arrived in Canada as an exile, I was asked (by journalists) what was the first thing I was going to do, and I replied that first and foremost I would say thank you. I am one of those who thinks that a person's greatest virtue is to be grateful. The creation of this Foundation is one of our ways of saying thank you. I owe this country my freedom, and from this country I will work for the freedom of others.”

Five years later, today, I can repeat these same sentences and I can voice them with even a greater conviction: Thank you, because I am committed to the same goal together with other wonderful friends that share our ideals; and above all, because our organization is growing every day and day by day in this wonderful country, our new and generous homeland that is Canada. Welcome once again to this celebration, thank you once again.

Thank you very much.

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