SANTIAGO -- Oswaldo Paya, the head of the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement, on Wednesday criticized the visit Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will make to the island next month and told Chile's Radio Cooperativa that "out of dignity" his group had not asked for a meeting with the South American leader.
Paya told Radio Cooperativa via telephone from Cuba that some years ago the Chilean Embassy in Havana halted all contacts with his group, which he said "is a message that it's a government that doesn't want to deal with us, which rejects us."
"And after what we have heard, that they don't have any intention to meet with us, out of simple dignity we have not asked for (the meeting)," added Paya, whose group is pushing the so-called Varela Project to hold a referendum on the communist-ruled island so that Cubans can express their opinions on a transition to democracy.
Paya ruled out the explanations of Chile's La Moneda presidential palace that Bachelet's visit is an official one, since the Chilean leader must abide by the protocol established by the Cuban government, and he said that that is not the most important aspect of the situation.
The main thing, he said, "is the support for a government that doesn't respect most human rights, a government (that was) not democratically elected. It's like saying that this dictatorship is good and Chile's was bad. All dictatorships are dictatorships and in all of them there are crimes and suffering among the people."
Bachelet's decision not to meet with the dissidents on her Cuban visit provoked the anger of the Christian Democratic Party, a member of Chile's coalition government, which decided that two of its legislators, who had been invited on the trip by the administration, would not accompany Bachelet to the island.
The president will travel to Cuba on Feb. 13 on the first visit of a Chilean leader to that country since Salvador Allende went there in 1972.
Bachelet will meet with Cuban government authorities and will attend the opening of the Havana Book Fair, at which Chile is a guest of honor.