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The Forum is a body for all young Cubans

‘The Forum is a body for all young Cubans’
WALDO FERNÁNDEZ CUENCA | La Habana | 18 de Julio de 2016 – 15:53 CEST. )

The fact that Cuban civil society is now struggling to throw off
shackles of totalitarianism is something that Kirenia Yalit Núñez Pérez
boasts the credentials to attest to. This Psychology graduate from the
of Havana, who has done extensive work in collaboration with
activists, is the general coordinator of an organization
that seeks to bring together young people to empower them and walk the
difficult path towards democracy.

Núñez Pérez is the director of the Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana
(MDJC), or Cuban Youth Dialogue Forum, a recently-undertaken project
representing a clear sign that times are changing on the Island. She sat
down to speak with DIARIO DE CUBA.

How did the MDJC come about? What is its main purpose?

The Forum was founded on February 22, 2014 in response to demand for a
body specifically for young people. Its forerunner was the Red
Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia en Cuba (Latin American
Network of Youth for Democracy in Cuba), founded by seven young people
from different Latin American countries, an organization that supports
activities in Cuban civil society, especially youth-based projects. We
were the founders of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy
(JuventudLac), established in December 2014, particularly to address the
situation .

The first coordinator of the MDJC was Litivio Fernández, who served as
general coordinator until the summer of that year, when he decided to
leave the country, and I took office in September of that year.
Basically, we have two main objectives: to encourage Cuban youth to take
on leadership roles, and to promote human rights, with a stress on the
rights of young people. This entails upholding youth as holders of
rights and advancing proposals for youth policy, with a focus on human
rights, before national bodies, for their implementation.

Where do the members of the MDJC come from?

We have young people of all kinds, as we are very inclusive. It doesn´t
matter where you come from, or your political affiliation or creed. As
long as the young person wishes to work in a respectful and inclusive
manner, the Forum is a space for him or her.

We are not a political party but an NGO that is mainly concerned with
the development of public policy and demanding that the Cuban government
respect the rights of the country’s youth. Hence the importance we
assign to the dissemination and the Cuban State’s ratification of the
Ibero-american Convention on the Rights of Youth, formulated in 2005.

What have been the biggest obstacles to the organization’s development?

At first there were 22 of us young people, and today we number 72. We
would have grown even more had it not been for the meddling of the
repressive State Security forces, who have prevented us from working
more directly with young people. People have been prevented from
reaching places where we hold activities.

Last year, in August, we were going to hold a National Forum, with over
100 invitees, but the political prevented it. We had to cancel
the activity one day before. A number of our members have been beaten
and detained on several occasions, and harassed and intimidated, and
they excluded from participating in international youth events as a
result of pressure applied by the Cuban government. I was able to report
these violations at a hearing address these issues before the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In June, when four members of the Forum were returning from the
Dominican Republic, where they participated in the 46th OAS Assembly,
seized from them a total of 570 pens, 254 planners, 49 signs, 2
bundles of bracelets and 82 can openers. Everything featured the logo of
the Forum and the “Poder Joven” (Young Power) campaign. In the seizure
document the Customs authorities indicated that these items violated the
“morals and principles of society;” note that they didn´t even claim
that they were “against the Revolution.”

In addition, there are provinces in the country that we have not
reached, like Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spíritus and Cienfuegos. Our
presence is greatest in Havana and Pinar del Rio.

What are the MDJC’s immediate goals?

The first one is to institutionalize the organization so that it can
generate more public visibility. I think that this would help us attract
not only those young people convinced of the need for change in Cuban
society, but even those who are not.

We are also involved in training young people about elections, through
the campaign we are carrying out right now, “Young Power,” which
basically seeks to reform the current electoral law. We are carrying out
this effort in coordination with the Cubalex Legal Information Centre.
We want young people across the country, through these training
programs, to become replicators of the campaign, where we spotlight the
need to reform the electoral law in order for Cubans to enjoy free and
transparent elections.

We also plan to officially inaugurate the “Young Power” campaign on the
same day that the United Nations launched its Creativity and Youth
effort. In addition, we hope to prepare and political candidates and to
place them in the public eye, while they also become trainers, in turn,
of other young people. We want to empower young people; hence our
slogan: “Choosing is our right.”

We are also seeking alliances with other civil society organizations so
that our members can participate in the debates and forums of other
organizations. I believe that if we fail to establish alliances,
overcoming our differences, it will be very difficult to achieve
democracy and a pluralistic Cuba. This is why the MDJC forms part of the
Executive Board of # Otro18 and is part of the Mesa de la Unidad de
Acción Democrática (MUAD).

Another of our goals is to have representatives in all the provinces. We
also want to continue to participate in international youth forums,
which offer us the chance to dialogue with other young people, and for
them to share with us their disparate experiences.

Any final message you would like to transmit?

I would like to take advantage of this interview to encourage all young
people to join our organization, regardless of the political party or
the bodies to which they belong – and even if they don´t belong to
anything. The Cuban Youth Dialogue Forum provides them with an
organization in which to act as young people. Here the focus is on them
and, by pooling and drawing upon everyone’s different ideas, we are
endeavoring to improve our future. This forum is all yours.

Source: ‘The Forum is a body for all young Cubans’ | Diario de Cuba –

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