Martha Beatriz Roque: “The Cuban Opposition Has Not Found The Right Path”

Cuban opposition activist Martha Beatriz Roque attended a celebration for the anniversary of independence at the CANF headquarters in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 25 May 2017 — On the verge of being operated on in Miami for a traumatic cataract caused by a punch from a Cuban State Security agent during one of the many acts of repudiation against her, the dissident and former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque was forceful in evaluating the trajectory of the opposition on the island, which in her judgment, “has not found the right way to reach the people.”

“We have to engage with the people and in that interaction we have to transmit to them the reality of the regime, ideas that the people understand,” Roque told 14ymedio last Monday at the headquarters of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), where she attended a celebration of the 115th anniversary of Cuban independence.

Roque was the only woman of the group of 74 dissidents who were arrested, tried and condemned to long sentences for crimes against the security of the state in 2003, an event known as the Black Spring that shocked international public opinion. That was her second conviction; in 1997 she was tried for writing the document “The Nation Belongs to Everyone” when she was part of the Working Group of the Internal Dissidence.

“Often the opponents go out into the street and shout ‘Down with Fidel, down with Raul, long live human rights,’ but people don’t even know what their rights are”

“Often the opponents go out into the street and shout ‘Down with Fidel, down with Raul, long live human rights,’ but people don’t know what human rights are, often they don’t even know what their rights are,” she added.

The opponent recalled how the demonstrators sent by the government itself often shout, “Down with human rights!”

“We have to reach the people through things that interest them. The Cuban opposition hasn’t found a strategy that links to the people and their problems,” she said.

The government opponent believes that the people have not been allowed to talk about their rights for a long time, so it is useless to try to explain hypothetical proposals for reforms in the Constitution.

In her opinion, among the serious problems that Cuba is experiencing is the absence of a future.

“Cubans have no future, so they want to emigrate because they know that Cuba has no future. We must try to make people understand the importance of building that future,” she added.

On the Venezuelan situation and its repercussions on the island, Roque believes that Raúl Castro’s government “fears” the consequences that could come with the end of Chavismo, to which is now added the increasingly clear position of the American president, Donald Trump, on the policy towards Cuba.

“I think things are going to change a lot in Cuba if they change in Venezuela,” she said. She also said that the path found by the Venezuelan opposition was very difficult for Cuban dissident groups, because the conditions are very different.

“I think things are going to change a lot in Cuba if they change in Venezuela”

Roque believes that the absence of concrete actions against the Raul Castro government by the Trump administration “gave the regime a lot of strength to continue repressing the opposition” and in particular to groups “that annoy them a lot.”

The 72-year-old woman does not believe that significant changes should be expected from Raul Castro’s promise to step down as president of the Council of State in 2018.

“Castro does not leave power, he continues to lead the Party and in Cuba the Communist Party is who has power, which means that he’s not going to leave power at all,” she added, adding that the advent of new figures such as current vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel will not mean a change in the system.

“Diaz-Canel is a puppet who just opens his mouth when they tell him to say what they want him to say,” she added.

Despite the grim picture, the dissident says that there is “slow movement” within the opposition in Cuba and that this year will see the first fruits of “the long struggle of the exile and opposition to bring freedom to the island.”