February 24 has long been a national holiday [commemorating the 19th century revolutionary war against Spain AD Ed.] which all Cubans have = always remembered for the sense of love and freedom that it inspires. But recently this date has taken on an added meaning: Hatred, revenge, and the spirit of aggression that characterizes a government that years ago lost its reason for being due to its indiscriminate use of violence against its own people.
One year ago today, the internal opposition forces issued a public call to the government to engage in an open political dialogue based on equalit y and mutual respect. The channel for this was the Cuban Council, a national forum created and integrated by the majority of the dissident and opposition organizations inside Cuba. It was proposed that the Catholic Church be designated as mediator.
The government's response came quickly: Hundreds of Council members were arrested and imprisoned. Others were subjected to constant, cruel harassment.
The climax to this wave of violence came when the Cuban Air Force shot down, in mid-flight and over international waters, two civilian planes from Brothers to the Rescue, killing all four of the young Cubans aboard who were using, as their only weapons, their ideals of freedom and national reconciliation -- ideals which come straight from our forefathers but which strike fear in the hearts of the men who currently misgovern our nation.
In this year that has passed since this shameful crime, the ideals of the Cuban Council have matured. They have strengthened and grown by leaps and bounds. The names of the four men killed remain in the collective memory of the Cuban people. They represent the spirit of dignity, of genuine Cuban identity, which enrich and ennoble our people.
The government thought that with the physical death of these four patriots they would silence the voices of those who have no voice. How wrong they were. Today we can say to these men in power that love has triumphed and always will triumph against hatred.
Neither prisons nor forced exile nor mob sieges will stop our labor, a labor now enriched by the sacrifice of those four young martyrs, heirs of Jose Marti's words "With all, for the benefit of all".
A civilization based on love is the fullest realization of the human spirit, and with that spirit we proceed onwards seeking that more open society, where full respect for the human person, in all of his dimensions, will prevail.
Submitted by DSP Provincial Spokesperson Juan Carlos Fernandez.
[Juan Carlos Fernandez was ordered to turn himself in to the political police the following day, February 25.]