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14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed without incident.
The daughter of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa María Payá, traveled from the city of Miami, where she lives, to participate in the memorial. About 60 people attended the mass, among whom were family, friends and opponents of the Castro government.
Among the activists who participated were former Black Spring prisoner Félix Navarro, the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler.
Speaking to 14ymedio Rosa María Payá said she found “the whole of civil society represented” to honor the memory and legacy of his father. “[All opponents] agree fundamentally: this system does not work and we have to change it.”
Berta Soler said that “the Cuban regime thought that killing Oswaldo Payá was going to do away with him” but that was not the case because “he lives among us.”
Oswaldo Payá founded the MCL in 1988 and died on 22 July 2012 with Harold Cepero, after the vehicle in which they were traveling, driven by the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero was driving, went off the road and hit a tree.
Payá’s daughter is carrying out an intense international campaign to demand an independent investigation of the case and maintains that the death of her father was a murder orchestrated by the authorities of Havana, and that the car was purposefully run off the road.
A report by the international Human Rights Foundation (HRF) points to “solid indications” that the car in which Payá and his companions were traveling was hit by another vehicle before the crash.
14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.
Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” continue reading
The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.
The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”
A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”
“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.
Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”
14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others still in progress.
While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana. continue reading
Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to what he has said in several interviews.
Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings. However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.
Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert, who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her family members.
Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard, because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now they are the ones most supportive of us.”
Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago headquarters.
“This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.
Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly with people to involve those most in need.”
Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”
Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the United States government was the main source, through the National Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”
Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to immediately find out what is happening every minute.”
For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on the island don’t do better activism because of not having good leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks, printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.
The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40 people.
When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2ndCuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor
The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” continue reading
Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.
The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad. He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.
Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.
Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.
The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and Saylí Navarro
Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.
In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.
Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.
14ymedio, 24 March 2016 – On Thursday morning several activists delivered 10,000 signatures on the Varela Project, which are in addition to the 25,404 signatures previously provided to this legislative body. Participating in the delivery were Rosa Maria Rodriguez from the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Saily Navarro and Rosa Maria Paya, members of the Cuba Decides campaign, along with former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring, Felix Navarro.
The dissidents transported the signatures to the headquarters of the National Assembly on 42nd Street in Havana’s Playa district, in a box on which was written “Proyecto Varela” with the logo of Cubadecide. This afternoon Rosa Maria Paya will hold a press conference in the municipality of Cerro, about the current status of the initiative, which was promoted by her father Oswaldo Paya, leader of the MCL.
The activists commented that initially the National Assembly officials seemed “confused” at the delivery of the signatures. However, after making several call, they accepted the signatures in the Assembly’s Department of Correspondence.
The Varela Project seeks to promote political reforms on the Island aimed at “greater individual freedoms,” according the press release from its organizers. The text reaffirms the “constitutional right” of Cubans to push for a change to “democratic pluralism.” To achieve this, “more than 35,000 Cubans, with residence in the country, signed their names,” along with their identity card numbers “as a way of supporting the Varela Project.”
After delivery the of the signatures, Rosa María Payá, president of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, said that “we are advocating for them to respond to thousands of signatories of the Varela Project and to the rest of the Cuban people, with the holding of a binding plebiscite for citizens to decide their future in freedom.”
The National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba’s Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs did not respond to more than 25,000 signatures presented initially by the Varela Project and instead amended the constitution to make socialist character of the Cuban state irreversible.
14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2016 — Former prisoners of the Black Spring Martha Beatriz Roque and Arnaldo Lauzurique received from the authorities “a unique opportunity to travel,” Roque informed 14ymedio this Monday, adding that today she will begin the paperwork to apply for a new passport.
On leaving the Immigration and Nationality Office, located at Factor and Final Streets in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, Roque explained that Major Orestes Rodriguez Bello assured her that she will be able to return to the country without problems. He added that this was an exceptional measure because the beneficiaries “have displayed good behavior.” However, their status as beneficiaries of “parole” is maintained, and this is not a change in their criminal status. continue reading
Seven of the eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring who remain in Cuba have been summoned to the Immigration offices, presumably to regularize their situation and allow them to travel abroad before Barack Obama’s visit to the island. So far only two among them have had their appointments and the rest will do so throughout the morning and the afternoon.
In the citation they are summoned “to the section covering immigration and nationality to resolve their immigration status.” The document is signed by Maria Cristina Martinez Bello, according to a report from the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque to this newspaper.
In addition to Arnaldo Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque, those cited so far include Oscar Elias Biscet, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas and Félix Navarro.
Those not summoned to appear include Angel Moya, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Librado Linares.
The eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring residing in Cuba have been prevented from leaving the country under the legal justification that they are “on parole,” a situation that has been widely condemned by international human rights organizations.
In March of 2003, the government ordered the arrest of 75 dissidents, including 29 independent journalists. They were sentenced to long prison terms. In 2010, after mediation through the Catholic Church, they were released in exchange for their departure to Spain, but the eleven remaining in Cuba did not want to leave the country.
14ymedio, Havana, 4 October, 2015 – Fifty-nine Ladies in White and 20 activists gathered this Sunday in Gandhi Park in Havana’s Playa district, despite the arrests previous to their traditional Sunday peregrination. After a summary of their weekly activities, the dissidents were detained, according to a report from witnesses at the scene.
From the early hours, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque denounced the arrests of 12 human rights activists who had traveled to Santa Rita parish. Among those arrested with the mother and siblings of Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, one of the members of the of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who had approached Pope Francis in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.
Others arrested on Sunday included the regime opponents Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez and Felix Navarro. The latter lives in the town of Perico, Matanzas, and traveled to the capital to show his support to the human rights movement.
Blogger Agustín López Canino denounced his arrest and reported that he was handcuffed at the corner of 5th and 30th streets, in the Playa district, together with two other colleagues. The activists detailed that he was “taken to the outskirts of Havana” to prevent his accompanying the Ladies in White during their Sunday march.
Meanwhile, in Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported ten Ladies in White marched in Colón, Matanzas, for the release of the political prisoners.
The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler said that Yaquelín Boni, an activist detained since Thursday during a protest outside Combinado del Este prison and accused of “disobedience,” has now been released.
14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2015 – Under the title “Diplomatic Normalization and Democratic Normalization,” an even this Monday brought together some 25 Cuban activists of different points of view. The site of the meeting was the “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism” in Old Havana.
The panel in the morning meeting discussed diplomatic normalization with the United States and the political dialog that the Cuban government is holding with the European Union. Specifically, they dealt with “the effects on the generation strategies of Cuban civil society and the democratic opposition.”
The event was attended by dissidents and activists from several organizations, including Juan Antonio Madrazo, Pedro Campos, Laritza Diversent, Felix Navarro, Jorge Olivera, Tania Bruguera, Navid Fernandez, Eroisis Gonzalez, Boris Gonzalez and Lilianne Ruiz, among others.
The meeting took place a few days before the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, will come to Havana to attend the reopening ceremony of the embassy of that country in Cuban territory. So far Kerry’s agenda on the island has not been made public, nor is it known whether it will include a meeting with activists and government opponents.
14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.
He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.
It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.
Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.
I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.
So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.
The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.
His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.
He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.
Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.
He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.
Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.
14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2015 — Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the country today.
José Daniel Ferrer
The whole time we were in prison, the Castro brothers’ regime did its best to pressure us, to force us to abandon the country. A few of us decided to say no, regardless of the circumstances. Today I am more convinced than ever that my having stayed is worth it. We are doing our modest bit to have a nation where there will never again be something like that spring of 2003, when so many compatriots paid with prison for attempting to exercise their most sacred rights.
“Today I am more convinced than ever that my having stayed is worth it”
Many things have changed, but they still maintain the repression, and sometimes increase it, against human rights activists and also against the people. Recognizing the changes doesn’t mean we go along, because what we don’t have is a prosperous and democratic Cuba. In the last days when I walked freely on the street, at the beginning of 2003, some people approached us and whispered in our ears, “I heard you,” referring to having heard us on some station like Radio Martí, one of the few media where they could learn about what the pro-democracy forces were doing.
Having stayed in Cuba after leaving prison is probably the best idea I’ve had in my entire life. continue reading
On Saturday July 10, the day on which I spent my 57th birthday in prison, I received a call from Cardinal Ortega. He informed me that he was forming the third group of ex-prisoners and that I could leave together with my family. I thanked him for the gesture and the fact that the Church had always fought alongside the unprotected and against the injustices, but I would not abandon the country even if I had to serve the entire 25 years of my sentence. On 22 March he called me again and the next day they released me from prison. Along with José Daniel Ferrer, I was the last to get home.
Right now I’m on conditional release, on parole, but I am convinced that sooner or later they are going to allow me to travel normally like any other Cuban. In my case, I have no intention of traveling abroad as long as the president of Cuba is not a democratically elected member of civil society.
“I would not abandon the country even if I had to serve the entire 25 years of my sentence”
In my opinion, the country has changed, but for the worse. It is true that since the beginning of December of last year the political police have stopped repressing in the way they had been the expressions of peaceful struggle of the Ladies in White in Cardenas and Colon. Before that, every Sunday they prevented their walking down the street, they were beaten and insulted, put into vehicles and abandoned to their fate at whatever place. This doesn’t happen any more and we believe it is very helpful, but the repression continues in other ways, with police citations and surveillance.
I was contacted three times by the Cardinal to leave for Spain and I said no. When they told me I could get out of prison on parole I refused, making my point that Raul Castro had announced months ago that we would all be released. I left prison against my will. In September 2014 I made a complaint to the People’s Power Provincial Court in the section for crimes against the security of the State and the Council of State for them to release me unconditionally. They responded that the court had determined that I would have to remain under control. I have no interest in leaving the country, this is my decision and I don’t have to explain it to anyone.
“I left prison against my will”
Some changes have occurred in our country, but I continue to insist that they are not fundamental. The government of Raul Castro maintains very rigid positions. The fact that relations with the United States are being reestablished is perhaps the most notable change, but behind this are the economic interests of the Cuban and American governments. In the case of Raul Castro, what he wants is to extend his dynasty in power, but I can’t see what the benefits are for the Cuban people.
Just under five years ago I decided not to accept the offer to go into exile in Spain. I received a lot of criticism, but my closest friends, my wife and my family supported me in my decision. At one time I desired to leave Cuba, but one has a right to change and today I have no regrets. In the most difficult moment of the dilemma I chose to stay for many reasons, one of them is the trajectory of the independent press, where I worked with Habana Press since 1995, and also my convictions. After thinking about all aspects, I considered it better to stay here trying to open spaces for independent journalism, to bring our experience to the young people. I am here, happy, although it seems a contradiction in terms, because I am doing what I love and contributing with my modest efforts to a better country.
“The country has changed and will change again, perhaps not with the speed we want”
Life is dialectical and everything changes. Sometimes we do not notice because we are in the forest, but the world has changed and Cuba as well. The Cuba of 12 years ago was very different. Now, for example, events that no one expected have occurred, like the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. They have opened spaces that were unthinkable back then, there are people who don’t see it that way, people who think it is very little, others say nothing has changed. The country has changed and will change, perhaps not with the speed those of us on the pro-democratic route would like, but there have been changes. Our work is made visible with the existence of new technologies, Internet and cellphones; discreet but important spaces have opened up that have contributed in a greater or lesser way to improving our work, both in the political opposition and in the alternative civil society.
When I had been in prison for about a year and a half in Combinado del Este in Havana, some officials from State Security interviewed me to find out my willingness to leave Cuba as a way to be released from prison. I told them flat out no, and their leader assured me I would serve the 20 years without any benefit. I decided to stay because of the commitment I have to the development of a dynamic of change that will do away with the Castros’ totalitarianism and produce a transition to democracy. On the other hand, I greatly identify with and have a great sense of belonging to Cuban culture, with its values, the people in the neighborhood, the climate, with las parrandas de Camajuaní. I can’t find this in any other country.
“We are more pluralistic, less monolithic”
Some experts in the areas of transition have said that there are four types of non-democratic regimes: totalitarian, post-totalitarian, sultanistic and totalitarian, but in the ‘90s a process of “de-totalitarian-ization” began and this has happened because of the pressure from the internal opposition and internationally and because of other reasons, including biological. The regime has been evolving toward post-totalitarianism and perhaps intends to move towards an authoritarian military regime.
They want to stay in power and that has led to allowing certain improvements in freedom of movement, they have facilitated aspects of the issue of ownership and non-state management of the economy, such as land leases and non-farm cooperatives. Despite the enormous repression, the opposition has been gaining spaces. We are more plural, less monolithic. People are forgetting their fear, breaking their chains and learning to speak up in public and to demand their rights.
Leaders of the opposition call Obama’s reconciliation with the Cuban government a “betrayal” during a press conference in Havana
Cubanet, Ernesto García Díaz, Havana, 18 December 2014 — From the headquarters of the Estado de SATS project in Miramar, on Wednesday afternoon (12/17/14), Cuban opposition leaders held a press conference for national and international media, to make known their positions regarding the new political stance of the United States towards Cuba.
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought and Coordinator General of the United Antitotalitarian Front (FANTU), referring to the steps taken by the governments of Cuba and the United States, stated the following:
“We can applaud the release of Alan Gross, who really was used by the Island’s government to blackmail the American administration. But Obama has been inconsiderate with the civil society that is challenging Cuba’s tyrannical government In Miami, back in November of 2013, Barack Obama promised Bertha Soler and me that any action he would take with respect to Cuba would be consulted with the civil society and nonviolent opposition. Obviously this did not occur. These actions are now accomplished facts, they are reality, and Cuban democrats were not taken into account. continue reading
This amounts to a betrayal of Cuban democrats. We must now adapt ourselves to the new scenarios, which means that we must ask the American government to keep in mind the demands that these negotiations should require, to avoid colluding with the communist dictatorship of the Island. If the United States government listens to us, I believe that we can hope that this is not one more maneuver of complicity and help towards a regime drawing its last breath.”
The leader and opposition activist Antonio G. Rodiles, coordinator of the Campaign for Another Cuba and of the Estado de SATS project, made the following assertion:
“History has been made when, in 1994, the country [Cuba] was finding itself in a profound crisis and the explosion of 5 August 1994 occurred. The North American government’s response was to accept the exodus and later to sign the migration accords which provide for an annual cap on [US] visas issued annually [to Cuban nationals]. The result has been that during more than 20 years, the country’s human capital has been bleeding out and Cubans have opted to leave Cuba and not provoke change. This truly has been a disaster and the United States government cast a lifeline to the regime so that it may survive.
“The rancid Castro regime, as is common knowledge, in on the point of ending from natural causes. Obviously what they are trying to do is to cement the foundation for a mutation to Neo-Castroism, which is the family and descendents, who are trying to continue to governing, which is a grave danger for Cuba and for the entire region.”
“Today’s measures – without taking into account the opinion of Cuban civil society, of the political actors in the Cuban opposition – is a serious message, it is a bad message, and if the upcoming process of negotiation does not include our participation, the results will not be positive at all. We still have ahead of us the Summit of the Americas [to be held in Panama City in April, 2015], but what happened today does not make us feel optimistic.
“We rejoice at the liberation of Alan Gross. But the measures that the United States government has implemented today, of relaxing the embargo and reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, will in no way benefit the people of the Island. The steps that have been taken will reinforce the repression against human rights activists by the government of the Castro regime. The regime will augment the resources and sinecures to its forces so that they will continue to harass and repress civil society activists. An example was the military reinforcements exhibited by the regime in advance of anti-demonstration activities on 10 December, ‘International Human Rights Day.’ ”
Félix Navarro Rodríguez, Coordinator General of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and president of the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, had this to say:
“The conditions that brought about the United States’ embargo against Cuba in 1961 have not changed. It is well known that the government is totalitarian, dynastic, that it does not recognize the rights to free expression, free assembly and freedom of the press. As long as the political opposition, the different strains of political thought and a multi-party system are not recognized and general free elections are not called, we cannot point to anything beneficial for the people.
“We are in total disagreement with what has been produced today, because we consider it a betrayal of those of us who, from inside Cuba, are opposing the regime to obtain a definitive change for the wellbeing of all Cubans.”
Following the opposition leaders’ statements, the floor was opened to questions.
Associated Press (AP): “We walked the streets extensively today, and found the people to be happy, beyond the message. It is notable that all of you hold a position so different from ordinary people. Does this mean that you will alienate yourselves from the will of many people now living in Cuba?”
Antonio Rodiles: “People are disoriented, surprised by what has happened. On the street, in the taxis, people were not excited, others said that the pie was cut, the [Castro] family and the governing elite are strengthening their business positions. It isn’t the people, the person in a small cafeteria who is being watched by inspectors, people don’t know what is going to happen.”
Ángel Moya: “In the midst of the secret negotiations that were going on between the two governments, on 10 December the Havana dictatorship was repressing 75 Ladies in White and 35 human rights activists. In Cuba, laws are in force that are designed to guarantee the impunity with which the repressive forces act. What guarantee is there that the Cuban government will recognize civil society?”
CubaNet: “Has the United States government or any of its officials, following these declarations, contacted the leaders of the opposition, in accordance with the commitments Obama made in 2013?”
Félix Navarro Rodríguez: “We have not been consulted. This has all developed in strict secrecy between the two governments. There has been no encounter with Cuban civil society nor with its leaders. Nor do we know if they are willing to meet with us. As of today, they continue to repress the Ladies in White and twelve of us prisoners from the  Black Spring; we remain on parole, deprived of our rights and liberties.
“The commitment by Obama to Berta Soler and Guillermo Fariñas was not kept. In Cuba everything remains the same. Now, in the midst of this avalanche, we will reorganize and will fight until the end, we will press for the recognition of our civil rights and for democratic freedoms.”
At the end of the press conference, Guillermo Fariñas, by way of concluding remarks, asserted this:
“We need to channel our demands. The government of the United States has a moral obligation to all democracies in the world. It gave to the Cuban government a possibility to start instituting some democratic reforms. Now, it will depend on the actions we Cubans take.”
Attending, among various other officials of accredited diplomatic missions on the Island, were diplomatic representatives of the European Union, and of Sweden. Also present were human rights activists, among them Gorki Águila Carrasco (artist in the group Porno Para Ricardo), Hablemos Press, AP, and others.
A few days ago a document signed by the coordinators of the Campaign For Another Cuba warned of the growing repression by the Cuban government against Civil Society and the possible consequences of these actions for our country.
At this time in Eastern Cuba, the activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) are repressed and violated and have been assaulted at the home of José Daniel Ferrer, the Union’s coordinator.
We alert the international community to this escalation of repression by the Cuban government against Civil Society and hold them responsible for encouraging future violent episodes against the citizenry in our country.
A few days ago warned in a document signed by coordinator of the Campaign for Another Cuba on the Cuban government’s increasing repression against civil society and the consequences of these actions for our country.
– Felix Navarro, Librado Linares and Antonio G. Rodiles, State of SATS.
List of detained activists:
Jose Daniel Ferrer García
Anger Antonio Blanco
Jorge Cervantes García
Arcelio Rafael Molina
Yohandris Veranes Hernández
Miguel Rafael Cabrera
Guillermo Coba Reyes
Rolando Humberto González