Twenty-four of the 75 Cuban
opposition activists arrested in a 2003 government crackdown on
political dissent signed a petition Wednesday supporting Colombian
rocker Juanes’ upcoming “Peace Without Borders” concert in Havana.
The concert has drawn
criticism in the Cuban-American exile community, where many complain
Juanes is endorsing the island’s communist system, although the
organizers insist the show has no ideological overtones.
dissidents said in an e-mail to foreign journalists that they were
“sentenced to up to 28 years in prison for peacefully fighting to
achieve a democratic Cuba,” but were nonetheless applauding the Sept.
The concert, which will also will feature Spanish singer
Miguel Bose and Cuban stars, is being held on Revolution Plaza, where
Fidel and Raul Castro have offices.
Noting Pope John Paul II
spoke at the same site during his historic 1998 visit to Cuba, the
dissidents’ message called the concert “a great opportunity to move
forward in reconciliation between all Cubans and to leave behind the
hatred that for so many years has poisoned our homeland.”
aware that this concert is but one step in our objective of rebuilding
our country and it pains us that more artists who reside in Cuba and in
exile cannot participate,” it said.
Fifty-four activists remain
imprisoned on charges they conspired with the U.S. to topple Cuba’s
government six years ago. Those freed were granted parole for health
reasons or exiled to Spain. One went free after completing his 6-year
Six of Wednesday’s signers were among those no longer behind bars.
Grammy-winning Juanes is known for his social activism. His first
“Peace Without Borders” concert in March 2008 drew tens of thousands to
the border between Venezuela and Colombia when tensions between both
countries were high over a Colombian commando raid into neighboring
Ecuador to kill a leading rebel commander. (AP)