News and Facts about Cuba

Cuba’s opposition movement has grown stronger since U.S.-Cuba deal, dissident says

Cuba’s opposition movement has grown stronger since U.S.-Cuba deal,
says
By Elizabeth Llorente Published June 03, 2016 Fox News Latino

The thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States
is having a little-spoken-about side effect – people on the island are
feeling bolder about challenging the government, says one of Cuba’s
leading dissidents.

“Without a doubt, the people of Cuba grow weary,” said Jose Daniel
Ferrer, leader of Cuba’s largest and increasingly influential dissident
group, in an interview with Fox News Latino. “It’s been too many years
of misery and oppression.”

The change in relationship between the two countries has been
accompanied by more outside sources of news and perspectives reaching
Cubans long accustomed to state-run media.

“International and internal forces within Cuba have resulted in Cubans
being exposed to more information, and that drives Cubans to feel more
inspired and oppose the regime,” said Ferrer, who is visiting the United
States after receiving a short-term permission from the Cuban government
to outside the island. “Each time the size of disillusioned,
frustrated people grows broader and so do the number of people who
oppose and challenge the government.”

Ferrer does not criticize the many Cubans who have risked their lives
trying to flee, most recently to Latin American in hopes of reaching the
United States. That number has surged as more Cuban fear that improving
relations between their homeland and the United States will spell the
end of opportunities their northern neighbor gives Cubans to seek refuge
there.

“The Cuban regime clearly drives the point home to Cubans that we in
Cuba have only two options – you completely obey the regime, or if you
don’t want to obey them, you leave,” he said.

“The third option (in Ferrer’s group) is we defend our rights, is we’re
not leaving, we’re staying, and we are going to fight for from
inside Cuba, the freedom many Cubans choose to flee to seek.”

“International and internal forces within Cuba have resulted in Cubans
being exposed to more information, and that drives Cubans to feel more
inspired and oppose the regime. Each time the size of disillusioned,
frustrated people grows broader and so do the number of people who
oppose and challenge the government.”
– Jose Daniel Ferrer, Cuba dissident

“Many Cubans are afraid, they say either I leave now or I’ll never be
free,” Ferrer added. “But to leave Cuba means they will not be able to
push for that change. We believe Cuba is where we must be, where must
stay, to effectively fight for change and a better future.”

While tens of thousands of Cubans have under cover of darkness fled the
island in recent months – not to mention over the decades – Ferrer
flatly refused the Cuban regime’s near-begging that he leave the island.

It’s not that Ferrer wasn’t facing the same hardships – and more – as
his countrymen. He had gone through more, including arrests for
opposition to the Cuban regime, beatings by government security forces,
and 8 years in jail for taking part in a petition pushing for freedom of
speech and other democratic reforms.

On rarely given permission to travel outside the United States, the
leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union, Cuba’s most prominent dissident
group, told Fox News Latino in a wide-ranging interview that he would
not trade his political activism for life in exile.

“It’s a matter of dignity, a matter of moral obligation,” Ferrer told
Fox News Latino about why he did not jump at the chance to leave a life
he clearly found insufferable. “And that is why we stayed put.”

Ferrer was one of 75 dissidents rounded up by Cuban security forces in
2003 in what became known as Cuba’s “Black Spring.”

Ferrer, a former fisherman, was one of several sentenced to 25 years in
. Under a deal pushed by the government of and the Cuban
Catholic Church, the Castro government agreed to free many of the
prisoners after several years, but on the condition that they live in
exile elsewhere.

About a dozen of the dissidents, including Ferrer, refused. In 2011,
Ferrer and Felix Navarro Rodriguez, the only two of the 75 inmates who
still remained in jail from the “Black Spring” sweep, were released.

“During the 8 years that we were in prison, the regime was always
proposing that if we would leave Cuba indefinitely, they would release
us and then our difficult conditions would come to an end,” Ferrer said.
“I always said no because, remembering [Cuban revolutionary leader] Jose
Marti, he said the freedom of a people always comes at a great price.”

“And you decide either to achieve it, or you resign yourself and that
society to continue living without liberty.”

The focus on Cuba these days, for the most part, is on the parade of
U.S. businesses looking to get a foothold there, and on American
tourists clamoring to travel the long-forbidden Caribbean island.

Ferrer has said that there are differences in how Cuban dissidents view
the restoration of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Some feel that the United States, for instance, should have demanded
more concessions and promises by the Cuban government to make democratic
reforms before moving ahead with such things as reopening embassies in
each other’s nations and easing restrictions on trade and travel.

Others feel that Cuba would have continued to resist making changes, and
that stalemate that has languished for decades would continue.

“It’s not divisions that we have among dissidents groups in Cuba over
normalizing relations with the U.S., it’s just differences of
perspectives,” Ferrer said. “We are not divided in the opposition
movement; we are united in the daily struggle for democracy and the
well-being of the Cuban people.”

He praised Obama for using his visit in March to essentially scold the
Castro regime and making a point of reaching the Cuban people in a
variety of ways, including doing a skit with Cuba’s most popular
comedian, Panfilo.

Obama’s visit is without a doubt the most important visit
we’ve had in the last half century,” said Ferrer, who was among a
handful of dissidents who met with Obama at the U.S. Embassy in Havana
during the president’s visit. “The impact was quite forceful.”

Ferrer said it was nothing short of “a stroke of genius” for Obama to
humanize himself before the Cuban people by using Panfilo’s popular
comedy show to reach out to the public.

“People watch and love Panfilo,” he said. “Brilliant move, that was.”

Ferrer will be traveling in the United States and Europe until July,
then will return. He does so at considerable risk. Cuban authorities do
not hide the fact that at any time, for any reason, they can return him
to jail to complete the rest of the original 25-year sentence.

Elizabeth Llorente is the Politics Editor/Senior Reporter for Fox News
Latino, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnewslatino.com.
Follow her on twitter.com/Liz_Llorente

Source: Cuba’s opposition movement has grown stronger since U.S.-Cuba
deal, dissident says | Fox News Latino –
latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2016/06/03/cuba-opposition-movement-has-grown-stronger-since-us-cuba-deal-dissident-says/

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