August 30, 1999

Cuban Catholic Group Opens Civic Club, Defies Law

26-Aug-99 -- EWTN News Brief

HAVANA ( - The "Social Christian Movement for Democracy and Peace," an outlawed political and human rights organization founded on Catholic principles in Cuba, defied Cuban law this week by announcing the inauguration of a "local publico" for cultural activities.

In reality, since no organization other than the state has permission to build, buy, or rent a club for public activities, the "act of inauguration" of the new organization was the announcement that the home of Lidia Veyries Gomez, responsible for the organization's human rights section, has become the new "civic club." A "local publico" is an institutional facility, usually with an auditorium, in which public activities may take place, including conferences, meetings, exhibitions, and other gatherings.

According to the president of the movement, Victor Leyva, the new club, located in the city of Santiago de Cuba, "will be very useful for the accomplishment of our purposes, which are the promotion of democracy through means of peace and dialogue." He added, "We hesitated to take this step for a long time, but we find it necessary if we want to promote a grassroots dialogue about the future of Cuba."

Since Cuban law does not consider the possibility of turning a private home into a "civic club," the movement is theoretically not breaking the law, but since unauthorized public meetings are illegal, it is very likely that the group will face legal troubles.