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Viewing cable 06HAVANA23546, LANDMARK FORUM BRINGS TOGETHER YOUNG CUBAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06HAVANA23546 2006-11-27 19:07 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
VZCZCXRO9483
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHUB #3546/01 3311937
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271937Z NOV 06
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0934
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHMC/AMCONSUL MONTERREY PRIORITY 0010
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HAVANA 023546 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

STATE DEPT FOR WHA/CCA 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016 
TAGS: PHUM KDEM SOCI CU
SUBJECT: LANDMARK FORUM BRINGS TOGETHER YOUNG CUBAN 
ACTIVISTS 

HAVANA 00023546 001.3 OF 002 


Classified By: COM Michael Parmly for Reason 1.4(d). 

1. (C) Summary: An unprecedented opposition youth forum 
brought together young Cuban pro-democracy activists and 
counterparts from Monterrey, Mexico on November 24 in Havana. 
The three-hour-long event, held at the PAO Residence, saw 
participants engage in open debate after watching an 
inspirational documentary on the fall of Milosevic. Many of 
the participants agreed on the need to coordinate the 
activities of the country's three biggest opposition youth 
groups. They acknowledged that they are much weaker than the 
Yugoslav youth groups (especially OTPUR) depicted in the 
documentary. Cuban authorities prevented at least 11 young 
activists from taking part, but did not interrupt the event 
or launch an immediate crackdown against participants. 
Retaliatory action could be harsh. End Summary. 

2. (C) Sixty-three young pro-democracy activists from three 
of Cuba's most influential opposition youth groups gathered 
in Havana on November 24 for a landmark forum aimed at 
finding common ground. The event, held in the back yard of 
the PAO Residence, drew members XXXXXXXXXXXX
Also  present were young members of other groups from
Bayamo,  Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Havana, Pinar del Rio,
Matanzas,  Santa Clara, Santiago and Trinidad. Two young
Mexican  pro-democracy activists from Monterrey brought
messages of  support. Several USINT officials were also
present. One  would-be Cuban participant was detained
and police prevented  at least ten others from attending
(mainly by confiscating  their ID cards), but the GOC did
not launch an immediate  crackdown after the event. 

"RESISTANCE" 
------------ 

3. (C) After brief welcoming remarks by Poloff, the three 
youth-group leaders addressed the crowd and then turned the 
microphone over to the Mexicans, who spoke passionately about 
"solidarity" and the inevitable triumph of democracy in Cuba. 
Participants then watched a stirring, 70-minute documentary 
on the fall of Yugoslavian dictator Milosevic, which 
emphasized the role of youth group OTPOR ("Resistance") in 
precipitating change, through rallies, outreach and biting 
sarcasm. Among the scenes that resonated most with 
participants were those in which the regime labeled OTPOR 
activists as "terrorists." (Note: Virtually all of the 
viewers have been branded "mercenaries," "terrorists" or 
"traitors." End Note.) On the other hand, it was clear to 
the Cubans that OTPOR had more room to maneuver in Yugoslavia 
and that Cuban groups are far behind in terms of influence 
and organizational capacity. 

ONGOING HARASSMENT 
------------------ 

4. (C) For the ensuing 90 minutes, participants took turns 
addressing the group in an open debate. Topics included the 
intense, ongoing harassment of activists, particularly those 
in eastern Cuba; horrific prison conditions and attacks by 
guards; a project to press the GOC to allow the reopening of 
a Catholic university; and the problematic situation of 
HIV/AIDS sufferers, thousands of whom are unable to receive 
the medicines they require. A common theme at the forum was 
the need to coordinate the activities of the key youth 
groups, and to network with university groups in a way that 
avoids a State Security crackdown. 

HEAVY STATE SECURITY PRESENCE 
----------------------------- 

5. (C) The State Security presence around the venue, in 
Havana's Miramar district, was heavy, and police patrol cars 
passed by the site frequently. Two large vans of the Cuban 
telecom, ETECSA, were parked next door. However, the GOC 
made no obvious effort to interrupt the event, either through 
power cuts or blocked street access. (XXXXXXXXXXXX
and  XXXXXXXXXXXX told us November 25 that they
were not  aware of any of their groups' participants being
detained  after the event.) There was only one incident
involving a  possible GOC provocateur. An uninvited 
"independent  journalist" who showed up and gained entry
after asking a  youth-group leader to vouch for him addressed
the group and  rejected the messages of the Mexicans and the
documentary,  saying "the problems of Mexico and Yugoslavia
are not the 
problems of Cuba."

HAVANA 00023546 002.3 OF 002 



PRISONER QUILT DISPLAYED 
------------------------ 

6. (C) A centerpiece of the forum was the vertical display of 
the "prisoners of conscience" quilt, a paneled work honoring 
the 75 peaceful pro-democracy and human rights activists 
jailed in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. (Sixty of 
the 75 remain behind bars.) The imprisoned activists' names 
are embroidered on the quilt, which was created in Boston by 
members of the group Cuban Flag. The quilt drew attention 
and generated considerable buzz. 

COMMENT 
------- 

7. (C) That 63 young "opositores" would travel long 
distances, at substantial personal expense and with no 
assurance that they would not be subsequently imprisoned, 
shows the hunger among some Cuban youth not only for change, 
but for action to set that change in motion. As 
thought-provoking as the documentary and debate were, the 
true success of the November 24 event lay in the networking 
that occurred on the sidelines, with small groups of 
like-minded young Cubans meeting each other, most for the 
first time. The event also went a long way toward building 
bridges between the XXXXXXXXXXXX, and
XXXXXXXXXXXX, which have  for years suffered from
mutual mistrust and bad blood, some  of it personality-driven.
For one evening, at least, the  leaders of these groups focused
on their common objectives. 

8. (C) One key value in the event was that it was a 
grass-roots, Cuban-generated activity. It would not have 
happened without USINT providing the venue and facilitating 
contacts. It is one small but important counterpoint to the 
regime's boast that since July 31, all Cubans have been quiet 
and accepting of Fidel's "proclama." We anticipate that the 
Cuban Government will retaliate harshly, both against the 
young dissidents and against USINT, which helped sponsor the 
event at their request. The regime will likely use state 
media and mass-based communist organizations to label the 
youth leaders as USG agents, and mobilize militant thugs and 
State Security officials to punish them with "acts of 
repudiation," citations, brief detentions, and possibly 
expulsions from workplaces and universities. We will be 
working just as intently to encourage actions in the other 
direction, particularly more/better networking among 
university students who oppose the regime. 
PARMLY