Saturday, March 20, 2010

Letter to Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mr Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper: Letter to Prime Minister of Canada

Before everything, let me introduce myself, Sir. My name is Juan Martin Lorenzo, I am a Cuban born citizen and since 2003 I am also a proud Canadian. I arrived to Canada at the beginning of 2000 as part of the skilled workers and professionals plan. Canada opened its doors when my life and my hopes were lost in a land where the dreams of a better future are extinguished by a brutal totalitarian regime.

Today, Cuba is leaving Cuba. Our youth had lost its faith for a better future in our land. They are watching beyond the blue waters of our beautiful shores to fulfill their dreams. They are not belonging anymore to Cuba.

Canada is not the most dreamed place to go for Cubans, but it is a land of hope and it is an immigrant’s dream land. Like me, many other Cuban fellows had arrived and build their future from scratch. Canada is a land of immigrants as you know.

In the other hand, Cuba is the third overseas destinations for Canadians after UK and France, and without any doubt it was the source of Canada’s biggest culture goods trade surplus in 2002. That surplus arose due to a $ 1.4 billion in exports, of this $ 1.2 billion can be accounted in publishing and printing exports, traced to a project to provide textbooks to Cuban students funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Statistics Canada provides a truthful and detailed list in how Canada had been involved with Cuba. For instance, another prominent cultural export include DVDs and Compact discs, especially Cuban music labels such as EGREM have used Canadian disc-pressing plants to mass-produce the works of popular musicians.

Overall, according to Statistics Canada, our fellow Canadians spend an estimated $ 103 a day in Cuba. Moreover, there is an increase of Canadians travelling to the island if we compare same time frames: 607 thousands in the first quarter of 2009 against 504 in 2008, what means an increase of 20.4 percent. And Cuba has been the second most important destination for Canadians in the last year 2009.

But, there are more to crunch especially in the private sector boomed by the official policy of the government of Canada toward Cuba. Canadians companies have been investing and making business, taking serious advantage of their American competitors absent thanks to the embargo.

Based on what Maclean’s Magazine published not too long ago, roughly 40 Canadians companies have opened offices in Cuba since 1991, being Sherritt Inc the first of them. The Canadian Embassy in Havana has counted more than 17 joint ventures signed and more than 20 under negotiations lately.

I can mention a few of them: York Medical, who was a pioneer in this business with Sherritt; Wilton Properties Ltd signed joint-venture with Grand Caribe (a Cuban hotel developer) to build 11 hotels throughout the Caribbean country.

Other companies like Pizza Nova, a Torontonian franchise and Delta Hotels and Resorts of Toronto, mining companies like Holmer Gold Mines Ltd., MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd., and Caribbean Resources Inc signed joint-ventures with the government of Castro.

By its own, Sherrit invested $ 1.5 billion in Cuba’s nickel industry and in coastal oil and gas production. I would like to submit you to Sherritt’s website and you will find that only in gas and oil, the Canadian company had spent until September an amount of 31 million and had a projection of 59 million until the end of 2009. I don’t know the latest numbers unfortunately.
As you can see, and these are basic numbers, the most visible and I could say the tip of the iceberg in Canadian investment in Cuba, the numbers are escalating higher and higher every year. I think you could add a few more of your own.

The Cuban community in Canada is growing year by year thanks to the attention of the authorities of this country toward the highly skilled Cubans, unfortunately we cannot tell the same thing about the attention showed by this country, its citizens and especially the government of Canada of which you are its Prime Minister toward the daily violations of Human Rights in my homeland.

International prestigious Institutions and organizations like Amnesty International, who has a branch in Canada, and Reporters without Frontiers had condemned loud and publicly on daily basis those practices of the Cuban government. But still Canada, its citizens, its media and you as Prime Minister are in silence. That makes you an accessory in the daily crimes Castro is committing in Cuba. A few timid and laconic words have been heard from your office recently about the last development in my native land, the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Too shy and in a very lower tone I would say.

According to the official website of the Government of Canada, which I am quoting here:

“Canada supports a future for Cuba that fully embraces the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada’s approach is to engage with all elements of Cuban society, including both government and civil society, with the objective of advancing democratic values and a liberalization of the economy.”

Mr Prime Minister, I am not questioning the legality and morality of any investment in Cuba, but said that I argue that it has to be accompanied with an effort to push Cuba toward the establishment of a democratic and transparent government.

My question is: Is the government of Canada doing something in that direction?

Again, I would go back to what the website of the government of Canada is claiming:

“Canada takes every opportunity to make clear to the Cuban regime our serious concerns about human rights practices on the island. We consistently call on the Cuban government to release all political prisoners and to dismantle the limits on freedom of expression. “

Is that true? And how can we know our Prime Minister is pushing in that direction?

How many times did you, Mr Harper, question Cuba’s ambassador in Ottawa about the visible and outstandingly cruel violations of human rights in Cuba?

How many times did you make a public statement about those issues?

How many times did you condemned through your diplomat personnel in Havana?

Moreover, are you assisting our civil society who is struggling to find moral, political and financial support in this democratic world?

It doesn’t help too much a public figure and a democratic politician as you are, and even a Democracy like Canada, to deal too much with a totalitarian state.

It is really outrageous how our Canadian government and the media in Canada ignore Cuba. Canada was, as Mexico, the only two countries who never broke their diplomatic ties with the Caribbean island. But that doesn’t move a millimetre to Castro’s government to acknowledge the fact. Actually, if you read every single reference about the embargo and diplomacy from Cuba’s perspective, it looks that was only Mexico who had kept diplomatic ties the last 50 years. Let me tell you clearly, Mr Harper: No western society will obtain any compliment from Castro in any possible way.

Canada had kept a policy of engagement, but it hadn’t make any difference with Cuba’s government either. Canadian companies are probably the more represented in Cuba in all areas of its economy. Big and small companies with huge investment and millions of dollars spent every year. But it doesn’t matter to the government of the island to pay in time, or to give any preference to Canadians. In fact, there are millions of dollars frozen in Cuba’s hands that had refused to free for more than one year. So, where is the laudable Canadian policy of engagement?

Meanwhile, the Canadian media ignores every single aspect of Cuba beyond hotels and sunny beaches. It is only touristic Cuba who keeps its attention busy. It doesn’t matter Cuba owes millions to Canadian investors. Cuba is only a place for a holiday, not a source of bad news.

It is absolutely a Canadian Apartheid. Day after day you search helplessly and you find nothing or the well-known touristic report about oasis Cuba. It looks like our country only exists as Canada’s exclusive resort. Castro’s government had exploited it with that factor in mind.

Bad news about Cuba doesn’t report dividends to the huge paradise’s business. Bad news about Cuba means to all the investors in Cuba’s touristic industry less Canadians travelling to Cuba and less money in their pockets. So, there won’t have any bad news to the Canadian market.

As a Canadian just imagine your country and your people with restrictions to travel abroad for reasons of opinions, earning a miserable salary that never reach $20.00 per month, with a double currency and salaries in the one currency you cannot buy anything available, where resorts, hotels, any exclusive golf court or touristic premises aren’t for the citizens of the country, win only one political party, one man in power for more than 50 years, and no freedom of any kind to express disagreements at any level of the society.

And then, you have the paradisiacal oasis on the hands of any traveler: indifferent, irreverent and unconscious of all surrounding him. We are not asking any law to ban Canadians for travelling to Cuba. We are not asking to the Canadian government to disengage and break diplomatic ties with our country.

We are requesting to Canada at a whole: Canadian government, Canadian media and Canadians themselves to pay a little more attention at what is happening in Cuba beyond luxuries hotels, sunny beaches and old American vintage cars. That is the only think we are requesting.

Recently, we lost a political prisoner there: Orlando Zapata Tamayo after 85 days of hunger strike. We are claiming public and loudly condemnation to that fact from the Democratic world where we are living and from our democratic representatives in power. You are the one who I can reach. I am asking you a public statement to the Cuban authorities, a public and clear statement of condemnation and more visible support toward our civil society there.

I will go further, we are asking for a formal nomination to The Ladies in White, a group of wives and female relatives of Cuban political prisoners who last Thursday were attacked by a mob of Cuban security agents violently, to the Nobel Peace Prize. You as a political leader and the Prime Minister of Canada are in an outstandingly position to make that especial request, and would be an extraordinary accomplishment to you as a humanitarian as well as a great supporter of Democracy worldwide.

I will hope I will hear soon your voice. Our small Cuban community will be thrill and proud of you. You can count with my support as well.

I want to thank you in advance for your time and your patience with this humble and proud Canadian.

Sincerely yours,

Juan Martin Lorenzo


Anonymous said...

Mr. Lorenzo,
Don't waste your breath. People sometimes choose to be ignorant of what they do not want to see.
Let them enjoy the fancy hotel meals, while surrounding them, the people, my family included, die in prison for speaking their mind. Such is life!

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