14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 August 2017 — The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) is celebrating its six years in the midst of the complicated situation faced by the island’s opposition, assaulted by repression and limited by laws that penalize any form of organized dissidence.
Under the leadership of José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011, after the release of the last prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003. Ferrar says that his experience within the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) proved to be momentous in shaping his political development.
Ferrer described the situation of the last year as “much more repressive” than the organization had experienced since its founding. Speaking to 14ymedio, Ferrer said that his greatest achievement in this new scenario has been “surviving” and finding “new actions and strategies to maintain a close bond with the community.”
Ferrer believes that UNPACU and its activists are the definition of “courage and service.” In the current political context, some dissident groups barely survive for a few months and others go through ups and downs. “They courageously face tyranny and serve the people, especially those most in need,” he said.
Ferrer described the situation of the last year as “much more repressive” than the organization had experienced since its founding
The leader of the organization explained that since the beginning of August they have undertaken activities to celebrate the founding of the opposition organization, “despite the increase of repression.”
“We have been moving our activists to different places in activities that have developed in a wifi zone, a river, a baseball or soccer camp.”
Ferrer denounced a police operation on Thursday that surrounded the organization’s headquarters in Santiago de Cuba.
“The operation coincided with the day UNPACU’s activist get together. Everyone who enters or leaves is searched or detained,” he said.
Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, youth leader of that organization, stressed that to its credit the organization has “not ceased activism in the streets,” but agreed with Ferrer that it has become more difficult because in the past year they have faced “more prisoners and more repression.”
Regarding the arrests, he said that they may have diminished, but that this is not due to “a better situation in the country” but to the fact that “many leaders are already in prison.”
UNPACU has spread all over the island and has more than 3,000 members, according to its leaders
UNPACU has spread all over the island and has more than 3,000 members, according to its leaders. In Havana, the provincial coordinator, Zaqueo Báez, has breathed new life into the movement, Oliva said.
Baez’s face appeared on the front pages of the media when, during the Pope’s Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution last September, he and other colleagues approached the bishop of Rome and called for the release of political prisoners.
UNPACU has a very dynamic YouTube channel where it shares material to publicize its community work and the opinions of the people of the street.
In a recent video, a resident of El Cristo neighborhood called for “greater support” for the organization because “any group that seeks freedom and the rights of any man is what represents the common good for this country.”
According to Oliva Torres, UNPACU continues “with social assistance” despite having been heavily attacked. He recalled that months ago the government “raided and closed a children’s nursery” run by the organization.
“We continue despite the fact that the regime has often predicted the end of UNPACU, today we are still here with the same willingness of the first day, assuming all the risks and consequences,” said the activist via telephone from Santiago de Cuba.