The Cuba Corps began conversations with Martha Beatriz Roque and René Gómez Manzano to identify young opposition leaders throughout the island to first, help empower them in the eyes of their communities by providing the means needed to help the most urgent and acute cases of need, and secondly, to tacitly give them a message of support from the United States and the Cuban exile, to countermand the isolation and indoctrination about the US being “the enemy” of the last 50 years. A third objective, to help further the education of these young leaders in issues pertaining to individual rights, the rule of law, civil institutions, leadership, parliamentary procedures and similar issues, is in the organization’s plans for early 2013.
- In November 2010, three opposition youth leaders were identified and referred to us in Santiago de las Vegas (metro Havana), Santiago de Cuba and Holguín.
- The choice of participants in the Youth Project and the choice of their communities (barrios, pueblos, vecindarios) depends entirely on our referral sources (usually established and well-known opposition leaders), the young leaders’ ability to organize the program in their neighborhoods—and our ability to fund them. Participants in the Youth Project are known as “Democracy Facilitators.”
- During the following months, The Cuba Corps identified and began supporting five more democracy facilitators in San Miguel del Padrón, Velasco, Moa, Antilla and the Cienfuegos area.
- At this time, the Democracy Facilitators of the Youth Project (YPDF) service very needy children and the very old and infirm, in 16 youth communities in towns such as Holguin, La Habana, San Juan y Martinez, Pinar del Rio, Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, Las Tozas, and Cienfuegos, working in urban and rural neighborhoods and small municipalities. The design of the program—with the vision of building a small space of civil society is entirely in the hands of the Democracy Facilitators, with feedback and supervision from the two referring opposition leaders.
- The Cuba Corps’ provides a small stipend on a monthly basis to each YPDF for transportation, as well as monies to buy food, clothing and medicines for their communities.
The core of this initiative is to empower these young people to assume a position of leadership in their communities, as well as to make them well-known as positive forces for their communities. The impetus for this program really emerged from the Assembly to Promote a Civil Society in Cuba (2005) and its central idea, stated in its conclusions, that the work at the grassroots level constituted “the fundamental cell of the work [for a democratic civil society] with the objective to promote at the local level the love of neighbor, ethical principles and patriotism”.
The emphasis of the opposition leaders on the need to develop grassroots community programs is evidence that Cuban independent NGOs have recognized the importance of preparing for a transition to democracy, focusing on cultural transformation and basic community services at the grassroots level.
In The Cuba Corps’ Youth Project Democracy Facilitator (YPDF) program three broad interest areas are contemplated: Civil Society, including issues of individual rights, the rule of law, free markets, the creation of organizations and institutions, and free elections; Capacity Training, how to create an organization, establish its objectives, brainstorm, measure outcomes, follow parliamentary procedure, including consensus reaching, human resources, accountability, and program development. The third area, Cuban History, has been included in this training blueprint because through the witness of recently arrived Cubans in Miami (during the last few years) it is a fact that the propaganda and repeated lies perpetrated by the Castro regime in its relentless indoctrination have created a hateful, confusing and chaotic historical narrative which needs to be cleaned up.