Saturday, March 21, 2015

Recognizing changes does not mean we go along

"Recognizing changes does not mean we go along"
REINALDO ESCOBAR, La Habana | Marzo 19, 2015

Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the
former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions
have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about
their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the
country today.

José Daniel Ferrer

The whole time we were in prison, the Castro brothers' regime did its
best to pressure us, to force us to abandon the country. A few of us
decided to say no, regardless of the circumstances. Today I am more
convinced than ever that my having stayed is worth it. We are doing our
modest bit to have a nation where there will never again be something
like that spring of 2003, when so many compatriots paid with prison for
attempting to exercise their most sacred rights.

Many things have changed, but they still maintain the repression, and
sometimes increase it, against human rights activists and also against
the people. Recognizing the changes doesn't mean we go along, because
what we don't have is a prosperous and democratic Cuba. In the last days
when I walked freely on the street, at the beginning of 2003, some
people approached us and whispered in our ears, "I heard you," referring
to having heard us on some station like Radio Martí, one of the few
media where they could learn about what the pro-democracy forces were doing.

Felix Navarro

Having stayed in Cuba after leaving prison is probably the best idea
I've had in my entire life. On Saturday July 10, the day on which I
spent my 57th birthday in prison, I received a call from Cardinal
Ortega. He informed me that he was forming the third group of
ex-prisoners and that I could leave together with my family. I thanked
him for the gesture and the fact that the Church had always fought
alongside the unprotected and against the injustices, but I would not
abandon the country even if I had to serve the entire 25 years of my
sentence. On 22 March he called me again and the next day they released
me from prison. Along with José Daniel Ferrer, I was the last to get home.

Right now I'm on conditional release, on parole, but I am convinced that
sooner or later they are going to allow me to travel normally like any
other Cuban. In my case, I have no intention of traveling abroad as long
as the president of Cuba is not a democratically elected member of civil

In my opinion, the country has changed, but for the worse. It is true
that since the beginning of December of last year the political police
have stopped repressing in the way they had been the expressions of
peaceful struggle of the Ladies in White in Cardenas and Colon. Before
that, every Sunday they prevented their walking down the street, they
were beaten and insulted, put into vehicles and abandoned to their fate
at whatever place. This doesn't happen any more and we believe it is
very helpful, but the repression continues in other ways, with police
citations and surveillance.

Héctor Maseda

I was contacted three times by the Cardinal to leave for Spain and I
said no. When they told me I could get out of prison on parole I
refused, making my point that Raul Castro had announced months ago that
we would all be released. I left prison against my will. In September
2014 I made a complaint to the People's Power Provincial Court in the
section for crimes against the security of the State and the Council of
State for them to release me unconditionally. They responded that the
court had determined that I would have to remain under control. I have
no interest in leaving the country, this is my decision and I don't have
to explain it to anyone.

Some changes have occurred in our country, but I continue to insist that
they are not fundamental. The government of Raul Castro maintains very
rigid positions. The fact that relations with the United States are
being reestablished is perhaps the most notable change, but behind this
are the economic interests of the Cuban and American governments. In the
case of Raul Castro, what he wants is to extend his dynasty in power,
but I can't see what the benefits are for the Cuban people.

Jorge Olivera

Just under five years ago I decided not to accept the offer to go into
exile in Spain. I received a lot of criticism, but my closest friends,
my wife and my family supported me in my decision. At one time I desired
to leave Cuba, but one has a right to change and today I have no
regrets. In the most difficult moment of the dilemma I chose to stay for
many reasons, one of them is the trajectory of the independent press,
where I worked with Habana Press since 1995, and also my convictions.
After thinking about all aspects, I considered it better to stay here
trying to open spaces for independent journalism, to bring our
experience to the young people. I am here, happy, although it seems a
contradiction in terms, because I am doing what I love and contributing
with my modest efforts to a better country.

Life is dialectical and everything changes. Sometimes we do not notice
because we are in the forest, but the world has changed and Cuba as
well. The Cuba of 12 years ago was very different. Now, for example,
events that no one expected have occurred, like the reestablishment of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. They have
opened spaces that were unthinkable back then, there are people who
don't see it that way, people who think it is very little, others say
nothing has changed. The country has changed and will change, perhaps
not with the speed those of us on the pro-democratic route would like,
but there have been changes. Our work is made visible with the existence
of new technologies, Internet and cellphones; discreet but important
spaces have opened up that have contributed in a greater or lesser way
to improving our work, both in the political opposition and in the
alternative civil society.

Librado Linares

When I had been in prison for about a year and a half in Combinado del
Este in Havana, some officials from State Security interviewed me to
find out my willingness to leave Cuba as a way to be released from
prison. I told them flat out no, and their leader assured me I would
serve the 20 years without any benefit. I decided to stay because of the
commitment I have to the development of a dynamic of change that will do
away with the Castros' totalitarianism and produce a transition to
democracy. On the other hand, I greatly identify with and have a great
sense of belonging to Cuban culture, with its values, the people in the
neighborhood, the climate, with las parrandas de Camajuaní. I can't
find this in any other country.

Some experts in the areas of transition have said that there are four
types of non-democratic regimes: totalitarian, post-totalitarian,
sultanistic and totalitarian, but in the '90s a process of
"de-totalitarian-ization" began and this has happened because of the
pressure from the internal opposition and internationally and because of
other reasons, including biological. The regime has been evolving toward
post-totalitarianism and perhaps intends to move towards an
authoritarian military regime.

They want to stay in power and that has led to allowing certain
improvements in freedom of movement, they have facilitated aspects of
the issue of ownership and non-state management of the economy, such as
land leases and non-farm cooperatives. Despite the enormous repression,
the opposition has been gaining spaces. We are more plural, less
monolithic. People are forgetting their fear, breaking their chains and
learning to speak up in public and to demand their rights.

Source: "Recognizing changes does not mean we go along" -

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