- Documents on Democracy
After meeting in Prague on September 17-19, the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba issued the declaration excerpted below. The signatories included a number of former presidents and prime ministers, including Patricio Aylwin (Chile), Kim Campbell (Canada), Philip Dimitrov (Bulgaria), Václav Havel (Czech Republic), Mart Laar (Estonia), Luis Alberto Lacalle (Uruguay), and Luis Alberto Monge (Costa Rica).
It is inconceivable and unacceptable that people continue to be imprisoned in Cuba for their ideals and peaceful political activity. We know that the majority of Cubans desire nonviolent democratic change in order to establish freedom and democracy in their land. Furthermore, all of us here are convinced of the necessity of this change due to the contact we maintain not just with the prodemocracy movement, but also with the silent majority of citizens who are paralyzed by the fear of repression.
The true source of sovereignty lies in the exercise of their innate rights by the citizens of any given country. A people are not sovereign if they cannot exercise these rights, if they cannot freely elect their political representatives from different ideological options, if they cannot count on the existence of an independent judiciary to balance the power of the government. We defend Cuban sovereignty when we defend the right of the Cuban people to democracy and when we insist that the Cuban government comply with the international agreements on democracy and human rights that it has signed. Without a general amnesty for all political prisoners, recuperation of civil liberties and free general multiparty elections the Cuban people cannot fully exercise their sovereignty.
Our goal is to help create the conditions so that the Cuban people can bring about democracy through a nonviolent transition. Our priority is to strengthen the civil society and civic movement that are bringing about that democracy. In order to accomplish this, we seek to set out common objectives for a general plan of support for democracy in Cuba that can be implemented in a coordinated manner at different levels and from different [End Page 179] parts of the world. The task of general coordination and support for this plan will correspond to the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba. . . .
The ICDC commits itself to long-term work on behalf of Cuban democracy so that one day all Cuban citizens will live in dignity and be able to fully exercise their rights as human beings. This summit marks the beginning of a concerted international effort to aid Cuba in becoming a full member of the world democratic community. We are convinced that through their own efforts and with international solidarity, Cubans will one day enjoy the true peace that only freedom brings. It is to this worthy goal that we fully commit our efforts.
Following the Beslan hostage crisis in early September 2004, President Vladimir Putin introduced a series of "reforms" that aimed at a further centralization of power in Russia. In response, leading European and North American democrats issued on September 28 the following open letter to the heads of state and government of the EU and NATO:
As citizens of the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies, we wish to express our sympathy and solidarity with the people of the Russian Federation in their struggle against terrorism. The mass murderers who seized School No. 1 in Beslan committed a heinous act of terrorism for which there can be no rationale or excuse. While other mass murderers have killed children and unarmed civilians, the calculated targeting of so many innocent children at school is an unprecedented act of barbarism that violates the values and norms of our community and which all civilized nations must condemn.
At the same time, we are deeply concerned that these tragic events are being used to further undermine democracy in Russia. Russia's democratic institutions have always been weak and fragile. Since becoming President in January 2000, Vladimir Putin has made them even weaker. He has systematically undercut the freedom and independence of the press, destroyed the checks and balances in the Russian federal system, arbitrarily imprisoned both real and imagined political rivals, removed legitimate candidates from electoral ballots, harassed and arrested NGO leaders, and...