Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Mara Tekach

U.S. Independence Day 2020
Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Mara Tekach
in Havana, Cuba July 4, 2020

“Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed in the Liberty Bell, the iconic United States symbol of Liberty.  U.S. Americans sounded the Liberty Bell in celebration when the U.S. Declaration of Independence was first read in public.

“Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

I dedicate this July 4th commemoration to all of the independent voices of Cuba – past and present.

Cubans like Oswaldo Paya and Laura Pollan proclaimed Liberty for Cuba and in doing so shall remain iconic emblems.  They are joined in spirit by all of the independent voices striving to free Cuba today.  José Marti sacrificed his life so that the Cuban people could live in freedom and democracy.

This fourth of July observance is unlike any other.  While I regret that I cannot host the dedicated members of civil society and the diplomatic corps who every year, join the United States in Havana at this residence, I know that we are all together in spirit.

Today commemorates the signing of that quintessential statement, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, about the inalienability of natural rights:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Right, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.” 

These unalienable Rights are immutable – intimately connected to the laws of nature and our existence as human beings.

Every day, but especially on the fourth of July, U.S. citizens hold great affection for our red, white and blue colors, the Stars and Stripes, and other iconic representations of our independence such as the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell.  These symbols have accompanied us through heartwrenching times as well as through celebrations of freedom.

As our democratic country struggles today, we recall heroes of color.  Not drafters of the Declaration, but visionaries who activated its tenets of natural rights to make us a greater country.

Frederick Douglass, the African American who fought slavery and survived a war to see it abolished, trusted the Declaration of Independence implicitly, saying:

“The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, at whatever cost.”

Martin Luther King breathed life into his dream through the sound of the Liberty Bell, echoing,

“Let Freedom Ring, Let Freedom Ring, Let Freedom Ring.”

Nelson Mandela, too, took inspiration in the legendary representation of the ideals of our nation, calling it  “a very significant symbol for the entire democratic world.”

These world famous, democratic, transformational voices envisioned the future in a bell that marked freedom.

The Liberty Bell amplified their quest for democracy and the protection of individual rights – those unalienable rights in the Declaration.

To visionary leaders, democracy was – and still is – the celebrated path to make people whole.

To visionary leaders, the very opposite was true of authoritarian regimes and dictators. They never would have dreamt of a future under a government of unchecked power.

Quashing free speech could only damage society.

Politicizing courts would only heighten injustice.

Crushing free markets would only deny prosperity.

Visionary leaders battled these iniquities.

These very concerns are why on the Fourth of July in Cuba, my remarks are dedicated to one purpose: to exalt the independent voices of Cuba. May they never be silenced. May they continue to be heard.

The world needs Cuba’s freedom fighters – those that are famous, those that go unnamed. All of them follow in the footsteps of Mandela, Ghandi and King.

They withstand wrongful laws like Mandela did; hunger strikes and physical abuses like Ghandi did; and they undertake actions of civil disobedience like Dr. King did. They tolerate indignities, inhumane treatment and even death, but their voices persevere.

We – the individuals who value and exercise our own freedoms, who have the ability to speak up and fight for greater justice in our countries – we have an obligation to remember that such basic rights are summarily denied to our Cuban friends.

George Floyd and others will always remind us to strive for a fairer, more equal society.  So too, men like Oswaldo Paya and women like Laura Pollan, shall remain with us in spirit.  Upon receiving the Sakharov Prize, Oswaldo Paya said very simply that Cubans also have “the right to have rights.” He said, “The myth that Cubans have to live without rights to sustain the independence and sovereignty of our country must end.”

People everywhere who enjoy freedoms, agree.

Cuba’s countless independent voices dream and strive for a better future. You shall not be forgotten.  We will continue to amplify your voices.

As Dr. King said, Let Freedom Ring.