14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his “friend” Guillermo Fariñas to “lift his hunger and thirst strike.”
Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a recourse to persuade the government of the island “that you cannot pursue noble ends with ignoble means.” He also says that Cuba “is not a different democracy” but rather is “a dictatorship.” The former Costa Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike. He did not manage “to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological differences” and nor did he move “the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship.” continue reading
The missive, published on Arias Sanchez’s Facebook account, says that “nothing we could do could save Orlando Zapata.” He emphasized that his voice will not be silent as long as “they continue to violate human rights in Cuba” and that he has lived long enough “to know that there is nothing worse than being afraid to tell the ‘truth’.”
Guillermo Fariñas, 2010 recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, declared himself on a hunger and thirst strike in the early hours of Wednesday, July 20 to demand that the beatings of non-violent opposition members in Cuba be stopped and that a dialogue be opened with government.
Friday, Fariñas added a third demand which requires the regime to “cease the arbitrary confiscations from the self-employed, small businesses and entrepreneurs and all Cubans who are being violently attacked” by the “military.”
Fariñas expressed solidarity with Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who began a hunger strike on July 13 “to protest the arbitrary confiscations” and said he would continue the strike until the belongings that were confiscated from him are returned. On Friday, one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, joined the hunger strike.
14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2016 — Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has declared a hunger and thirst strike and as of dawn Wednesday to demand an end to the beatings of non-violent opponents in Cuba and that a dialogue be opened with government.
“It would be cynical of the Cuban government, which was a mediator in the dialog between the Colombian [FARC] guerillas and the authorities of that country, to be unable to sit down and dialog with a non-violent opposition to avoid these beatings and other outrages,” he said in a conversation with 14ymedio. continue reading
The opposition figure is asking Cuban president Raul Castro to “publically commit before national and international public opinion to cease these beatings, torture, death threats, the creation of false criminal charges against opponents, searching dissidents’ homes and confiscating the personal belongings of opponents,” and that the government “designate a vice president to meet with 12 prominent leaders of the internal opposition,” responsible for ensuring the end of the violence.
The announcement comes after Fariñas denounced, on Tuesday, a beating by police officers in Santa Clara, and would direct the Fifth Police Station to communicate with the Pinar del Rio Unit where a member of the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) – the group Fariñas coordinates – who was arrested last Thursday.
“I offered no resistance, but they still beat me, they threw me into a patrol car, they forcefully handcuffed me, and used a strangulation technique to drag me to the patio behind the Central Fire Station in Villa Clara,” he says. The opponent said that after being transferred to the Provincial Criminal Investigation Unit in Villa Clara, they left him “handcuffed and exposed to the sun” and officials from the Special Brigade continued to beat him. “They told that this was the rigor that they would apply if I went out into the street again, better I dedicate myself to writing, because they would kill me,” he says.
Fariñas also wrote a letter to Raul Castro, in which he says he was “tortured while handcuffed by members of the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior in the province of Santa Clara.” In the missive, he emphasizes that his phenomenon forms a part of the “wave of abuses, terror and violence,” that he has unleashed against “the non-violent opposition, which civilly faces totalitarianism.”
Fariñas has undertaken many hunger strikes. In 2010 he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought after 135 day strike in protest against the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and in a demand for better condition for 26 of the 75 prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, who were suffering serious health problems. Finally, this strike and its media impact were decisive in the beginning of the process of negotiations that ended with the release of the 75 detained since March of 2013.
General of the Army Raul Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba
Yesterday, on 19 July of the present year, I was tortured while handcuffed by troops of the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior in the province of Santa Clara. Because of group of us, militants of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), were going to the 5th Unit of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), to inquire about our member falsely charged in the province of Pinal del Rio, Jose Rolando Casares Soto, and about a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuban (UNPACU), Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, who is on hunger strike in Santiago de Cuba.
To present oneself before an establishment of MININT is not a crime, according to current laws, if one is not carrying allusive posters, distributing propaganda, or shouting a slogan against the regime, and that was what we militants of FANTU were doing when we were violently arrested. continue reading
The above is a small sample of the wave of abuses, terror and violence that the repressive authorities of your government unleashed about 19 months ago against the non-violent opposition that civilly confronts totalitarianism.
And that can trigger an escalated violence among Cubans, resulting in a civil war, something that I do not want for my Nation and I think you do not want it either. You and the MININT Special Brigade members – Anti-riot –who tortured me when I was defenseless, and called me a Mercenary.
Let me clarify, that to be a mercenary one must meet two conditions: 1st – To be fighting outside one’s country of origin, and 2nd – To be at the service of a foreign power. I fight within Cuba and I was born in this land. I only accept having been a mercenary when I fought in Angola and was in the service of the Soviet Union, a foreign power.
With regard to the second, let me clarify, it is true that I receive material and financial support from anti-Castro exiles, something that does me honor, because these compatriots in the diaspora do not forget the suffering of the Cuban people. Something that you and your supporters have no moral authority to criticize, because when you were fighting Fulgencia Batista y Zalvidar, the exiles financed you, or where did the money come from to buy the yacht Granma, a boat financed by the exiled ex-president of Cuba Carlos Prio Socarras?
Also the heroes of independence Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo received material and monetary help from Cubans in exile. And so, General of the Army, if we are mercenaries you also were.
And I believe that neither Marti nor Maceo had been. For all the reasons detailed above, I am declaring as of today I am on a Hunger and Thirst Strike, until you declare publicly – and your words are published in the official newspaper Granma – that we opponents are not to be tortured, beaten, threatened with death, we will not be subject to spurious charges and we will not have our personal property confiscated.
Also that you designate one of your vice presidents to meet with a dozen prominent leaders of the non-violent Cuban opposition to realize the fulfillment of your promise. I hold you and your government responsible for my life and the lives of all non-violent Cuban opponents as of this moment.
General of the Army I urge you to act as a Cuban patriot and not as an ideological militant of one ideological trend. That you recognize that no Mercenary offers his life for pro-democratic ideals and that it is our right, recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to always think differently, in a non-violent way.
Without further comment I am,
Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez, Psychologist, Winner of the European Parliament Andrei Sakharov Prize, Coordinator General of FANTU
14ymedio, Havana, 1 July 2016 — In the same week, the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) has lost two of its most representative organizations. On Tuesday, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) withdrew from the organization of opponents, and Thursday the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas, made public its departure.
In a note circulated by email within the island, the FANTU National Council said that MAUD “is permeated by a majority of organizations and personalities that are not representative of the entire non-violent opposition.” Something that, according to the group, distances them from those who daily confront “in the streets, the Castro’s totalitarian regime.” continue reading
The statement, signed by eight activists among whom is Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, said that FANTU’s members believe that the opponents who belong to the United Roundtable reject the carrying out of “actions in the public rights-of-ways” and “reject the methodology” of the organizations that hold them.
Unlike UNPACU’s more diplomatic declaration of withdrawal from MUAD, the FANTU note offers very harsh criticisms of the entities that make up MUAD. In their opinion, they are “very popular in the media, but with few members in their ranks,” at times only one person, “and act only towards the exterior of Cuba.”
Manuel Cuesta Morua, one of the main drivers of the MUAD initiative, told 14ymedio that MUAD is preparing “a well-thought out” response to these criticisms.
For its part, FANTU has reproached MUAD for using “methods to buy and get commitment as well as votes from opponents, which consist of facilitating travel abroad”; a way that seeks to “defend the postures and opinions of certain personalities within this rebellious entity.”
The document notes that “the struggle must be carried out within Cuba and not be [going] constantly from airport to airport [since] the real scenario for the democratization our country is within the island itself.”
Cuesta Morua recognizes that the withdrawal of these organizations “is a blow” for the MUAD project, because both groups “have worked hard and are very prestigious within Cuba.” However, he dismissed the seriousness of the rupture, which he described a “a growth crisis” that “will not end” the umbrella organization.
Cuesta Morua, who is the leader of the Progressive Arc, said that there is still “a lack of maturity in the coexistence between the same proposal from different viewpoints, distinct concrete strategies of change, of how to push democratic change.” He notes that “the doors remain open from FANTU and UNPACU,” if in the future they want to return” to the organization.
Fariñas is setting his sights on the Second National Cuban Meeting, an event that will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, between this August 12th to 14th. That is “another attempt at unity in which we are involved,” the opponent emphasized to this newspaper.
EFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.
Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”
Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, continue reading
the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.
For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.
For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.
“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).
Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.
“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.
In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.
Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”
Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.
He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”
Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.
In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.
Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.
EFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.
In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.
The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).
“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.
“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.
On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.
Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.
EFE/14ymedio, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 17 August 2015 — The dissident Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, told EFE Monday, speaking from the Puerto Rican capital, that the arrests recorded last weekend in Cuba are a sign of insecurity of the regime in Havana.
Fariñas, who participated in the closing ceremony in San Juan of the first Cuban National Conference, said the regime in Havana “was left without enemies” after the rapprochement with the US Government.
“The battle is now with the Cuban citizen, because the enemy is the people,” said Fariñas, shortly after the issuance of the Declaration of San Juan, which contains the outcome of the meeting begun last Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital in which a hundred dissidents coming from Cuba and elsewhere participated. The declaration marks the steps to follow in the coming months. continue reading
Fariñas emphasized that the approach to Washington has not decreased the intolerance of the Raul Castro regime. “They demand tolerance from everyone, but also ask to be left to do,” whatever they want, he said.
Fariñas is a part of the opponents of the regime in Havana gathered in San Juan to study a common strategy of opposition to the Government of Cuba, both inside and outside the island.
These Cuban dissidents called today for the unity of those who fight against the Castro regime during the closing ceremony of the conference.
The Declaration adopted at the conference said that the purpose of the meeting was “to seek ways to reconcile the work of the pro-democracy forces with the commitment to restore sovereignty and all their fundamental rights to the Cuban people.”
14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 – The Cuban National Conference – involving one hundred activists from 23 organizations from the Island and 32 from exile meeting for three days in Puerto Rico – concluded this Saturday with a document setting forth a common strategy. The Declaration of San Juan emphasizes the need to work “to achieve full freedom for the Cuban people and genuine Rule of Law.”
Among the points of agreement among the participants were the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the repeal of laws that violate fundamental freedoms. The declaration also established as a priority achieving “freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, peaceful demonstration, profession and religion.”
The signers of the Declaration of San Juan made a call to fight for “the participation of all the people in every decision of the nation, the legalization of all political parties, and free and multi-party elections.” During the meeting 30 papers, prepared over the last year, were presented addressing several of the topics that were later reflected in the final document.
The Cuban National Conference urged “work for a campaign for a binding plebiscite in favor of free, fair and plural elections, under democratic conditions, that guarantee the sovereignty of the citizens.” Support for the Agreement for Democracy in Cuba, a document put forward in 1998 by organizations in the diaspora and on the island, was another of the issues agreed to in the final document.
The promotion of the peaceful struggle and “training of pro-democracy activists in the methods of civil disobedience,” is included among the issues to strengthen.
The participants committed to working for the collapse of the “cyber-wall in Cuba and striving so that the internal opposition has the technological resources needed to continue mobilizing the citizenry.” Progress in both aspects will monitored over the coming six months.
The Cuban National Conference, enjoyed the participation of activists such as Guillermo Fariñas, Elizardo Sanchez, Mario Felix Lleonart, Eliecer Avila, Laritza Diversent and Rene Gomez Manzanos. Its realization coincided with the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Cuba.
EFE/14ymedio, San Juan, 14 August 2015 — Leaders of the Cuban dissidence arrived on the island and everyone met this Friday in Puerto Rico to work towards a common position with regards to the new scenario that is opening with the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.
The Cuban National Conference brought together in San Juan one hundred dissidents who are trying to achieve a single strategy among all the groups who are fighting against the regime in Havana, with regards to the steps they should follow to bring democracy to the island, according to what regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas told EFE.
“There is a new context with the change in relations – between the United States and Cuba – and therefore it is necessary to achieve unity,” said Fariñas, who emphasized that it can’t be ignored that the rapprochement between Washington and Havana has repercussions on the strategy of the dissidence. continue reading
“We are working to be heard as a single voice for the democratization of Cuba,” said Fariñas about the objective of the meeting, scheduled before learning of the change in relations between the US and Havana, which culminated this Friday with the raising of the American flag over its embassy in the Caribbean capital in the presence of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The dissident outlined that although the change in relations is a relevant event, the ultimate goal of the National Cuban Conference being held in Puerto Rico is to mend fences between all the opposition groups inside and outside the island to agree on a common strategy that will bring democracy to Cuba.
Fariñas added that the work undertaken during the meeting will result in a Declaration of San Juan, this coming Monday, in which a joint strategy will be announced to ensure that democracy comes to Cuba.
Eliecer Avila, the young regime opponent and collaborator on the digital newspaper 14ymedio directed by the critical blogger Yoani Sanchez, told EFE that the change in direction in relations between the United States and Cuba opens a new stage, which civil society on the island must adapt itself to.
“Unity of action is paramount, and so far it has been a struggle against a regime marked by dispersion and by the actions of groups with isolated agendas,” said Eliecer Avila
“The objective is to capture all opinions to prepare a joint document,” said Avila, for whom this is the time to unite on a strategy that facilitates the return of democracy to Cuba, despite the fact that among the dissidents there are those who see the rapprochement as a positive thing, and others who are critical of it.
Thirty papers, prepared over the last year, have been presented during the meeting.
“Unity of action is paramount, and so far it has been a struggle against a regime marked by dispersion and by the actions of groups with isolated agendas,” said Avila.
Sylvia Iriondo, president of the human rights organization MAR for Cuba (Mothers and Women Against Repression), told EFE that the San Juan meeting arose in order to “unite democratic Cuban forces committed to change on the island.”
Iriondo, who lives in Miami, expressed her rejection of the rapprochement between Washington and Havana, given that Raul Castro’s regime does not represent the Cuban people.
The Cuban National Conference, in preparation for over a year, was promoted by United Cubans of Puerto Rico, an organization founded in 1967 with the aim of supporting opposition to the Havana regime from the Puerto Rican commonwealth.
The presence of nearly 20,000 Cubans in Puerto Rico and the cultural affinity were some of the reasons to bring the meeting to San Juan, according to the organization.
The work has been divided into two thematic areas, the first being the coordination of efforts between the interior of the island and the exile, and the second on strategies for democratic change.
14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.
Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. continue reading
Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.
The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.
14ymedio, Jose Badue, Washignton DC, 13 June 2015 — Despite a temperature of 97º F (36º C), and unbearable humidity, about one hundred representatives of nations and peoples – including a Russian LGBT association – who have suffered the nefarious consequences of Communism, met at the corner of New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenues at 10:00 AM before the Victims of Communism Memorial. continue reading
It was very sad, but at the same time very interesting to see so many diverse people united by the same tragedy. While I was speaking with a group of Cuban former political prisoners, reporters from TV Martí and Diario de Cuba approached us. Since I had already explained to the ex-political prisoners that I was there to do my part for 14 y medio, one of them remarked how beautiful it would be in a future Cuba where free journalists would be able to compete in their coverage of whatever they chose to cover. Those old men still are a source of inspiration. They never stop dreaming.
Fariñas gave a very moving speech. He thanked the Cuban former political prisoners there in attendance for their struggle and sacrifice. Fariñas did not give a prepared speech, as is usually his style, and as his English interpreter told me. When Fariñas concluded, all those present gave him a resounding standing ovation.
14ymedio, Washington, DC, 12 June 2015 — In a ceremony that took place yesterday in Washington, DC, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation awarded the 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Cuban opposition figure Guillermo Fariñas. The dissident used the opportunity to dedicate the award to “all the (Cuban) political prisoners of the ’60’s and ’70’s, when nobody listened,” as he stated to 14ymedio. continue reading
In a meeting with the directors of the Foundation, Fariñas thanked them once again for “not forgetting the thousands of Cubans who have been executed, arrested, tortured, or who have died in the sea trying to escape from Communism.”
Alexander Podrabinek, a Russian human rights activist and journalist, was also awarded the 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal on Friday afternoon. The dissident has been the victim of several incarcerations, and has undertaken his work under the unrelenting surveillance of both the Soviet régime and Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism.
Before the ceremony, Fariñas, winner of the European Union’s 2012 Sakharov Prize, met with Senator Robert Menéndez, Democrat from New Jersey. He also met with Congressman Albio Sires, Democrat from New Jersey, and the Floridian Congressional members, Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Mario Díaz-Balart.
The first event of the day was a luncheon dedicated to the “triumph of freedom,” where Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was the featured speaker. The final speaker for the night was Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio.
The Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom was created in 1999 to honor persons and organizations that have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy, and against all forms of tyranny.
14ymedio, Havana, 13 April 2015 — The Cuban activist Guillermo Fariñas has been selected to receive the 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, as he himself announced Monday via his Twitter account.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Washington DC, offers this award annually to individuals or institutions involved in the fight for freedom and democracy and opposed to communism and other forms of tyranny.
Since the first edition of the award, in 1999, those who have received this distinction include Pope John Paul II (in 2005), former Polish President Lech Walesa (in 2006) and former Secretary of US Defense Donald Rumsfeld (in 2012), among others.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation aims to honor the more than 100 million victims of communism worldwide and the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.
“If the Cuban government aspires to be included among the democracies it must accept and respect the opposition.” Interview with Guillermo Farinas.
Cubanet.org, Jose Luis Leon Perez, Santa Clara, 7 April 2015 — Before leaving for Panama for the Civil Society Forum, Guillermo Farinas, Coordinator of the United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), who holds a critical view of the negotiations between Cuba and the United States, agreed to an interview with Cubanet.
What is your opinion about the Seventh Summit of the Americas, about the presidents of Cuba and the United States sitting for the first time at the same table?
Dialog is better than war. Personally, I think that Barack Obama erred by not taking into account Cuban civil society, the internal, non-violent opposition, when he took that step. But we must not concentrate on criticizing Obama, but the Raul Castro regime, his character and that of the top leaders, our true adversaries. continue reading
When Raul Castro returns from the Summit, will there be more tolerance toward the opponents?
The Cuban government wants the United States to buy Cuba with the dictatorship included. So far, the US administration says that it will invest in Cuba without dictatorship. I believe that depends on what happens in Venezuela. Fidel Castro and his brother have shown themselves to be opportunists. They are searching for another lifesaver, and they see it in the United States. But President Castro needs to understand that in order to be able to advance in this world he must comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What do you hope for from the Summit for Cuba and Latin America?
That they engage in dialog and understand the different political trends and be able to come to agreements and forget historical strife, to strengthen Latin America as a zone of peace. With respect to Cuba, not just the government is represented at this Summit. There the world will be able to appreciate the presence of the opposition by Cuban civil society. It will be shown that in Cuba there is not that unanimity that the Cuban government has peddled for 56 years.
In your recent letter to Raul Castro, you sought to include in the new Electoral Law the Transparent Ballot Box project. What is your objective?
The Cuban government aspires to insert itself into the world but without fulfilling democracy, and with democracy there is no exceptionality: either there is democracy or there is not. That’s why we must fight. It is necessary, in order to avoid spilling blood, to take into account the different opinions. I raised it in my letter to Raul, as president of all Cubans, and not just the Cubans who follow his political ideals.
If the Cuban government aspires to join democracies, it must accept and respect the opposition that exists in any democratic country.
How did the Transparent Ballot Box project come about?
We agreed on it at a meeting of the United Anti-totalitarian Forum. Now we are raising awareness about other political projects in order to form part of the Steering Committee.
“Transparent Ballot Box” proposes that all political trends that exist in Cuba be represented and permitted to participate in the next general elections that are going to take place in the year 2018. Also that all public offices, including the President of the State Council and Ministers, be by direct vote. And that all citizens born in Cuba, although they may reside abroad, have the right to vote and to participate in the elections
We also think that all candidates for eligible public offices must have the material resources to be able to bring the messages of their respective plans in equality of conditions. And it is important there be international observers to supervise the election processes. These points that we ask to be included in the new Electoral Law are based on Article 88, subsection G of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.
Do the members of the Steering Committee represent all the opposition political trends?
This committee is not finished. On return from the Summit we will continue this labor. I can tell you about this committee that there are people from all over the country. We have not been able to speak with some but we are sure that they are going to accept this plan.
Do you plan to involve all citizens?
The most important thing is not that the opposition signs; we must add all the citizens who are discontented, hopeless, angered by the deceptions that they have suffered through for more than 56 years of Revolution, so that in a civilized way they ask the government to change. When ten thousand citizens or more present an initiative, their opinions have to be taken into account.
Do you think the government will permit you to gather the necessary signatures?
I think they are going to try to discredit Transparent Ballot Box, they will try to add false signatures, they will use blackmail in order to prevent people joining the project, they will try to create unfavorable states of mind, they will cultivate discouragement.
Against all that there are countermeasures. We must do something so that they regard us as people, as the non-violent opposition, as civil society independent of the government. We have to seek power in the number of signatures, which is the most important thing. When that happens, the governments of Cuba as well as the rest of the world cannot be indifferent.
According to 14ymedio, opponents like Hildebrand Chaviano, of Plaza of the Revolution and Yuniel Lopez O’Farrill of Orange Creek, could become pioneers of a nascent opposition within the government. What is your assessment?
In 1996, in the Santiago de Las Vegas township, the residents voted for an opponent who put himself forward, and the government committed him to a psychiatric hospital for three months. That they now permit several opponents to be nominated is a step forward. But it is too little, too late. They are doing it now because they want a democracy to appear where there is none, because there exists no law of association and parties, and without that, there will be no democracy.
Do you want to add anything for the readers of Cubanet?
I am sure that during the Summit, some members of independent civil society and the opposition will be the subject of attacks on the part of the intolerant followers of the government of Raul and Fidel Castro. We are prepared to refute the provocations with non-violent methods. In Panama it will be seen who the terrorists are, who imposes violence.
About the author
José Luis León Pérez
He graduated as a doctor and Comprehensive General Professor in the “Felix Varela” Higher Education Institute of Villa Clara in 2007. He worked in several ESBUs (Basic Urban Secondary Schools) in Santa Clara. He served as a Methodological Consultant and teacher in the “Lazaro Cardenas del Rio” Computer Science Polytechnic Institute located in the same city. He holds a Masters of Science in Education. He serves as a citizen-journalist and independent blogger. He is also a proofreader for the weekly El Cartero Nacan and Nacan magazine, both alternative independent publications. He was born in Santa Clara, Villa Clara, where he currently resides.
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.