“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.
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.
Translated by MLK