Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 03:41 GMT 04:41 UK
Cuba opposition plan for democracy
The opposition coalition called for multi-party elections
By Tom Gibb in Havana
A coalition of moderate opposition groups in Cuba has publicly presented a plan for the island's peaceful transition from a one-party state to a Western-style democracy.
In an unusual move, the group delivered a copy of its plan to the ruling council of state, headed by Cuba's veteran leader, Fidel Castro.
The five parties which presented the long and detailed document are among dozens of small groups which form the Cuban opposition.
Calling themselves the Reflective Round Table of the Moderate Opposition, the coalition called for a gradual transition to multi-party democracy through dialogue between Fidel Castro's government, the internal opposition and Cuban exiles.
They also called for the release of political prisoners, multi-party elections, economic liberalisation and press freedom.
But it's a wish-list which is far from being fulfilled. Fidel Castro has repeatedly said that the island's socialist state will continue indefinitely.
The opposition has no access to the media, it cannot hold public meetings, and so offers little threat to the ruling Communist party.
Those that push too hard to try to break these restraints or seek new recruits too actively usually end up in jail.
The opposition is also badly divided by personal rivalries and political differences; many echo the line of more radical Cuban exile leaders in Miami and reject the idea of any dialogue with Fidel Castro.
Until now, the government has been adept at exploiting these divisions, infiltrating groups and sowing suspicion and mistrust to prevent a united opposition from ever materialising.