Dissident presses for more rights
A leading Cuban dissident unveils a proposal in favor of free speech, private business ownership and the formation of labor unions.

Associated Press

A leading dissident group on Tuesday unveiled a list of proposals it plans to submit to local government representatives in favor of free speech, private business ownership and the formation of labor unions.

The proposals include that Cubans be allowed to come and go from the island without restrictions, buy and sell cars and houses, run their own businesses, form unions, subscribe to the Internet and buy cable television.

The 36-page document was announced by Vladimiro Roca, a former military pilot who broke with the socialist government more than a decade ago and began calling for a Western-style democracy.

The initiative represents one of numerous proposals that have been presented over the years by opposition groups.

''The intention is to mobilize people using the [government] mechanisms that they have available to them,'' said Roca, who plans to submit the proposals to the local district representative, the lowest level of government.

The idea is that eventually the proposals would reach the highest level, the National Assembly.

Roca, spokesman for the opposition United For All movement, said the proposals are a step toward the goal of achieving peaceful change on the communist island.

''It is a document to encourage people to seek change,'' he said.

Last month, a new government law went into effect restricting most Internet access over the low-cost government phone service Cubans have at home. Amnesty International criticized the measure as 'yet another attempt to cut off Cubans' access to alternative views and a space for discussing them.''

The dissidents also have repeated a call to abolish the death penalty and are demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.

Roca spent several years in jail for his dissident activities in the 1990s.

The group first compiled the recommendations in December 2002, and since have shared them with thousands of citizens, Roca said.

''Even members of the Communist Party read [the document] and they liked it,'' Roca said.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from the government, but Cuban authorities have criticized dissidents in the past for appealing to the international media instead of trying to act through the established legal system.