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.
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
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
Dear friends, five years ago, in my speech at
the official presentation of this Foundation I delivered the following
“…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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