HONORING THE SPIRIT OF CUBAN FREEDOM -- (Extensions of Remarks - May 19, 2004)
HON. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2004
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, 102 years ago, Cuba achieved its hard-fought independence from the tyranny of Spanish imperialism. This moment of triumph and relief ushered in a new era of freedom, a republican age. The ideals of self-government had trumped despotic rule, and all were captivated by the promise of enduring liberty. May 20, 1902 immediately assumed a profound significance for the Cuban nation, melding a fierce passion for independence with a zeal for democracy. Indeed, May 20, paralleling America's own 4th of July, celebrates the same democratic fervor that Americans fondly recall whenever we reflect on our own sorely won freedom.
Unfortunately, the promise of a lasting and viable democracy would never be fully realized in Cuba. As we know all too well, the veil of "freedom" Fidel Castro promised with his Revolution soon descended into one of the worst tyrannies in modern history. July 26, a date sanctified by Castro as a symbol of his own political triumph, replaced May 20 as the new national holiday, wiping away all memories of democratic hope.
The Cuban people watched in stunned silence as they witnessed the dismantling of their republic and the institution of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism. Soon the Soviet juggernaut had extended its iron fist across the ocean, marking the dawn of crushing religious, political, and artistic repression and the emergence of a culture of fear, theft, stagnation, and moral bankruptcy. After suffering countless state-sanctioned crimes throughout the decades, the indomitable will and courage of the Cuban people keep the hope of freedom and democratic change alive as an achievable goal.
Mr. Speaker, I proudly serve the cause of democracy as a United States Congresswoman, and continue the fight against the Castro regime and the oppression of the Cuban people. Ever cognizant of Cuba's plight, I feel compelled to call this oppression to your attention this day, May 20, 2004, a day representing freedom, and reminding us all of the tyranny that has usurped freedom.
Mr. Speaker, this 20th of May, liberty has once again eluded the Cuban people. Yet, I know that soon May 20th will once again stand as an affirmation of Cuban democracy, as a new birth of freedom, as a celebration of victory over dictatorship.
Positive change will no doubt come, and we work toward it every day. I unite my thoughts and prayers with the Cuban people, and ask them to believe: a true 20th of May celebration is on the horizon-Cuba will once again be free.