Cuban Dissidents Prepare for the Future / Ivan Garcia

Carlos Millares, Frank Abel García y Tamara Rodriguez

Carlos Millares, Frank Abel García y Tamara Rodriguez

While 17 young Cuban dissidents attend advanced courses to master the tools of leadership and business at a university center in Miami, in Havana, the newly formed Fundación Sucesores, imparts courses to the civil society in Havana. Run by sociologist Carlos Millares, 65, Fundación Sucesores has been giving classes to the nascent civil society since December of 2013.

“We told students the location at the last minute, so that the State Security wouldn’t put any obstacles in our way, preventing classes,” said Millares. The group has a collegiate direction. Besides Millares, the group is integrated by Frank Abel García, Daniel Palacios, Tamara Rodríguez, William Cácer, and Luis Alberto Diéguez. With the exception of Millares, everyone is between 26 and 40 years old.

“Since the second half of January, we’ve been teaching two courses: one for the formation of leaders, and another one for journalists and photo journalists. Each course has 10 students,” said Frank Abel.

Most of the participants are young people that recently became involved with political activism or independent journalism. The classes are ambulatory and secret.  One week, they can be at a room in ruins at the old part of the city and outside the capital limits the following week.

The leadership course lasts six months and among other subjects teaches history, law, social media, and public speaking. Intellectual dissidents such as Manuel Cuesta Morúa, lawyer René López, Julio Negrín, Arturo Torrecillas, Daniel Palacios and Carlos Millares, teach the classes.

Desks consist of seats at a dinner table or a bed. The students copy the content of the classes in flash drives. Professors only have one laptop. “We don’t have all the necessary resources, but the lack of resources cannot be an impediment to create and prepare people within the incipient society in Cuba,” said Millares.

The course of journalism lasts four months and includes 20 topics. Four of the six members from the board of directors from Successors Foundation became dissidents after they worked in State institutions.

Millares has the most experience of all. He has been part of different dissident organizations for the last 25 years. He was a curious and polemic general secretary for the Union of Young Communists in the faculty of medical science in the University of Havana.

His journey to the pacific opposition was a slow and painful process, like surgery without anesthesia. Frank Abel worked as chief of staff in Radio Rebelde, a radio station symbolic of the revolution. Abel became a provincial delegate at the radio station. He was involved in a case orchestrated by the cultural authorities against young intellectuals from OMNI Free Zone. His sense of justice made him break from the regime.

For eight years, Daniel Palacios was a sports chronicler from the official newspapers Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde. He had a spot in the capital radio station COCO, in which along with other reporters, he tried to break with the government censorship. Palacios gave out the results from the games of the Major Leagues during his time on air in radio, and remembered that before the Castro dictatorship from 1962, there was a glorious past in baseball, Cuba’s national hobby.

“One afternoon, I received a call from Pelayo Terry’s office, who was then director of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde. Two men from the State Security threatened me and showed me mail that I had exchanged with Wilfredo Cancio Isla, a Cuban reporter from Miami. After my expulsion from my position as a journalist, they have continued to harass me,” Palacios said.

His exit from official journalism had repercussions for his family life. He lives away from his wife and daughter because he doesn’t have a place of his own. Most of his colleagues from within the state journalism have turned their backs on him.

“It has been hard but I feel good about myself, which is the most important thing,” Palacios said. Now, besides teaching journalism classes, he writes for Café Fuerte and Diario de Cuba.

Tamara Rodríguez was a commercial specialist at CIMEX, a military corporation that collects convertible pesos for the government. They tried to embroil her in a corruption case after she started to make friends with women from the Ladies in White.

After she broke ranks with the government, she became part of the group. Since the beginning of 2013, Frank Abel went to the home of sociologist Carlos Millares and told him about his interest in turning young dissidents into leaders.

Through different paths, opposition organizations in Cuba or in the United States decide to take dissidence as an option. Perhaps, today’s dissidence is uncomfortable for many exiled people from Cuba, due to their distinct pacifism and inability to create a powerful lobby group in the neighborhoods of the island.

Havana is far from being Kiev or Táchira. In Cuba, the opposition from the barricades suffers the worst. But the future could be different.

When new times arrive, nongovernmental organizations would have materialized the initiatives toward young Cuban dissidents, who have had trouble accessing a college education because of their political views. Some of these organizations are the Human Rights Foundation from Florida, in collaboration with Miami Dade College, which work with funding from private donations and the United States government.

From this side of the world, some people do not sit back. They start initiatives to promote values of democratic leadership and the use of journalistic tools among young activists.

The Fundación Sucesores is one of those initiatives. According to its members, this initiative is about a new Cuba, who above all, needs people qualified in the art of politics, democracy, and modern journalism

And that future is around the corner.

Iván García

Photo : Frank Abel García, Carlos Millares and Tamara Rodríguez talking to Iván García. Fundación Sucesores is also the name of the blog they have created.

3 March 2014