- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

HAVANA (AP) Three university students have been expelled for supporting a petition drive for human rights reform in Cuba, a leader of the effort said.
The students were expelled from a university in the eastern province of Camaguey, said Oswaldo Paya, the head organizer of the Varela Project human rights campaign.
"We denounce the government … and demand the immediate return of those expelled students to their classrooms," Mr. Paya said in a statement Sunday.
There was no immediate response to Mr. Paya's charges from the government, which usually does not respond to accusations from groups it labels "counterrevolutionaries."
Mr. Paya has said in the past that some Cubans lost government jobs for signing the petition, which seeks a referendum asking voters whether they favor new laws to guarantee basic rights such as freedom of expression and private-business ownership.
One of the Camaguey students was expelled on Sept. 23 and the other two on Nov. 13, Mr. Paya said.
"We demand respect for freedom of conscience, of religion and of expression in universities and schools at all levels," he said.
Varela Project organizers in May turned in more than 11,000 signatures requesting the referendum. That month, former President Jimmy Carter spoke in support of the effort during a live speech broadcast on state radio and television during a visit to Cuba.
Cuba's National Assembly has not responded to the referendum request. In a move widely seen as an attempt to block the Varela Project, the parliament approved a constitutional change stating that Cuba's social, economic and political systems are "irrevocable."


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