Global Americans and the Canadian Council for the Americas present “Two gringos with questions,” an interview series featuring political and cultural leaders from across the Americas. In the fourteenth episode, Chris and Victoria (filling in this time for Ken) talk to Cuban historian and political activist, Manuel Cuesta Morúa.
Morúa was Born in Havana, Cuba. He is the founder and current chair of the Progressive Arc, an organization that brings together diverse organizations of a social-democratic nature from inside and outside Cuba. He worked with other organizations and activists in the collection of 35,000 signatures for the drafting of Charter of Rights and Duties of Cubans in 2003.
He has held more than 300 round table discussions that focus on proposing a new, democratic constitution for the nation. In March 2016 he was a member of a select group of Cuban dissidents that met with President Obama at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
Morúa, along with other organizations and citizens, coordinates the New Country Platform, a plural political alternative based on citizen participation that seeks to re-found the nation and the Cuban political system. He also co-directs the Constitutional Consensus project, which includes the majority of the pro-democratic, civic and human rights organizations in the country; is a member of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration; and has led the Zero Violence project.
Together with leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela—including Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López—Morúa founded Latin American Democratic Solidarity, which seeks to connect citizens of the Americas in defense and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the hemisphere.
In 1993 Morúa began to work for the Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the most prestigious human rights organization in the country. In 1996, he was elected Secretary General of the Democratic Social Current. In 1998, together with other political, civil and social organizations, the Reflection Table of the Moderate Opposition, which dissolved in 2003 and from which the Common Platform emerged.
Morúa has been the victim of numerous arrests and “actos de repudio” throughout his political life. At the end of January 2014, he was detained and prevented from attending the second alternative Forum of the Summit of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana and was later released under a probation agreement.
Between 1986 and 1991 he worked as a Cuban government employee in various positions. Between 1987 and 1988 he was a high school history professor. From 1988 to 1991, he worked in the African department at the Museum of History in Havana. In 1991, he was fired for his political beliefs and joined the social-democratic organization Cuban Democratic Social Current, a left-wing group opposed to the regime.
He graduated from the University of Havana in 1986, where he majored in history and specialized in contemporary Asian history. He holds graduate degrees in political science, economy, international relations and anthropology. In December 2016, he won the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Ion Ratiu Prize.
To discuss the current human rights situation in Cuba, Chris and Victoria talk to Morúa about the island’s new constitution, the May 11 protests, and why democracy is vital and needs to be protected.