Cuban Dissidents – Some in the Trenches, Others Applauding
Cuban Dissidents: Some in the Trenches, Others Applauding / Ivan Garcia
Posted on February 3, 2015
Iván García, 27 January 2015 — The shifting political landscape of the
Middle East is probably more complicated. No doubt it is. But given the
spectacular diplomatic about-face on December 17 between Cuba and the
United States — two sparring nations huddled in their respective
trenches since the Cold War — the White House was not expecting a
significant faction of the island’s dissident community to train its
guns on the red carpet President Obama had rolled out for Cuba’s
Disagreements are healthy. Nothing is more harmful than fake unanimity.
But if you read the proposal from the Forum for Rights and Freedoms —
released by an opposition faction led by Antonio Rodiles, Berta Soler,
Ángel Moya, Guillermo Fariñas and Félix Navarro — and compare it to the
four points of consensus agreed upon by other dissident groups, the
differences are minimal.
The independent journalist Juan González Febles, director of the journal
Primavera de Cuba (Cuban Spring), believes the disagreements are
ideological rather than programmatic. “Individualism and the lack of
historical memory is a key factor in certain dissidents’ categorical
rejection of other opposition proposals,” he observes.
On Thursday, January 23 these divergent opposition views came out into
the open. At a lunch attended by a dozen dissidents and Roberta Jackson,
the U.S. official leading the team negotiating the reestablishment of a
future embassy with the Cuban regime, the conflicting viewpoints caused
a minor earthquake.
The adversary is no longer just the Castro brothers. Obama is now also
in the crosshairs. The faction criticizing the steps taken by Washington
is balanced out by those with a different opinion.
The schism is obvious. At 1:00 PM on Thursday a faction led by veteran
opposition figures Elizardo Sánchez, Héctor Maseda and José Daniel
Ferrer abruptly called a press conference.
Antonio Rodiles had previously announced a 2:00 PM press conference with
independent Cuban and foreign journalists. José Daniel considers the
differences to be ones of degree. “When you read the document they
released, there are points of agreement with our document. We all want
democracy, political freedom and amnesty for political prisoners,” he says.
Elizardo Sánchez believes that 90% of the local opposition agrees with
no less than four basic points. “It’s an exaggeration to say these
differences are the cause of arguments. But when you ask why not hold a
joint press conference, it misses the point,” he says.
Each faction claims it represents the majority. “Those of us who agree
with the changes initiated by Obama make up 70% of the dissident
movement,” says Ferrer.
From the other side of the fence Antonio Rodiles paints a different
picture. “Almost 80% of the opposition harbors significant doubts and
does not support this new process,” he notes. “The United States is
betting on neo-Castroism. Avoiding the issue of human rights and
ignoring the dissident movement in the negotiating process is a doomed
Guillermo Fariñas believes the United States is ignoring long-time
dissident leaders such as Oscar Elías Biscet, Antúnez and Vladimiro Roca
along with recent activists such as Sonia Garro and a significant
segment of the exile community.
The new landscape undeniably confers independence on any group that
questions the Obama-Castro negotiations. The Cuban regime has long
accused opponents of being “mercenaries in the service of Washington.”
Like logs on the fire is how Josefina Vidal, the likely Cuban ambassador
to the United States, characterizes dissidents, whom she says do not
represent the Cuban people. “In Cuba there are a variety of mass
movement organizations which are Cubans’ true representatives,” she notes.
The new scenario has clearly split the dissident community between those
in favor and those opposed. To reach people and become an important
player will require a 180-degree turn. Each faction will argue in favor
of its approach and will come up with its own roadmap. The challenge is
The military regime, however, retains an ironclad control over the
media. Through fear it has managed to keep a large proportion of the
population — fed up with the disastrous economy — out of the fray,
passively watching the game from the sidelines.
As a sign of protest against Obama’s policy, Berta Soler and ten or so
opposition figures boycotted a farewell cocktail party hosted by Roberta
Jacobson at the U.S. Cuban Interest Section in Havana.
But although dissidents such as Elizardo Sánchez and José Daniel Ferrer
support the new measures, General Raúl Castro is not counting on them.
They are out in no-man’s land.
Source: Cuban Dissidents: Some in the Trenches, Others Applauding / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba –