Yusmila Reyna: "UNPACU's Challenge Is To Turn Sympathizers into
Activists" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on August 25, 2015
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 August 2015 – A philologist by
training, a dissident by passion, and an activist with the Patriotic
Union of Cuba (UNPACU) by choice, Yusmila Reyna (b. 1976) is today one
of the most important figures in the opposition. She speaks slowly,
moves easily through technology issues and seeks perfection in
everything she does.
Since joining UNPACU, this woman has known how to leave the imprint of a
part of her personality on the movement. This week we exchanged messages
through the State Nauta service about the fourth anniversary of the
opposition organization. In her free minutes between her young daughter
and daily challenges, Yusmila responded to some questions for 14ymedio.
Sanchez. Four years after the founding of the UNPACU, what is the main
challenge of the organization?
Reyna. To motivate and move thousands of Cubans to join the peaceful
struggle for freedom. That is the great challenge of all opposition.
Although we have achieved certain results, the reality is that we have
much left to do.
Sanchez. Who are the members of UNPACU and how many are there?
Reyna. We have had many ups and downs in the course of these four years.
Many have joined, but not everyone can bear the pressures of the
repressive forces. Between the eastern region and Camaguey is where we
are best organized. We now have about 2,500 activists. In the rest of
the country we are not in a condition to establish numbers right now. In
the central and western regions we are reorganizing, restructuring and
trying to identify the leadership to sustain the fight.
UNPACU has members of all ages, but young people are the majority in our
ranks, those between 18 and 45. A good portion of us are from the
eastern provinces, Santiago de Cuba first of all, and we are humble
people, working-class, young people who are unemployed and self-employed.
We have professionals and technicians, but the base is composed mainly
of people who only finished high school, or even just the ninth grade.
Sanchez. The Cuban opposition has been strongly criticized for not being
"connected to the people and not reaching ordinary Cubans." How does
this relate to the work of your organization?
Reyna. For UNPACU, we reach out in so many ways to the people I
mentioned, principally in the east and in the Cuban capital, to
thousands of compatriots who look to us and ask us for help to solve
many of their problems. They look to us to denounce the injustices
they've been victims of, to avoid an eviction, to get them medications,
to help them in the construction of a humble abode. They also ask to use
our audiovisuals, to help them connect to the internet and many other
In Santiago de Cuba, for example, there is no person who does not know
our organization. Young people and teenagers are humming the music
produced by our artists and they even threaten the police that they will
get UNPACU to come when they harass them or try to stop the weekend
parties. If everyone who sympathized with us joined in a peaceful
protest we would fill several plazas. The challenge is to turn
sympathizers into activists.
Sanchez. Right now UNPACU is the opposition movement with the largest
number of political prisoners. To what do you attribute such marked
repression against you?
Reyna. Currently there are 21 and since September of 2011 we are the
organization with the most political prisoners in Cuba. More than one
hundred members of UNPACU have passed through the regime's prisons in
the last four years. Political prisoners and repression manifest
themselves to the extend that pro-democracy public activism manifests
itself. It is a law of physics: every action causes a reaction. The more
our activism annoys the dictatorship, the more their repression. We are
developing a diverse struggle in many areas. Some areas are more
repressed than others.
Sanchez. How does UNPACU view the normalization of relations between
the governments of Cuba and the United States?
Reyna. Since last December we have said that we value the process of
normalizing relations between the US government and the Cuban regime. We
appreciate the solidarity of the US government with the Cuban people and
independent civil society, and we are also grateful for the solidarity
of governments and organizations of the old continent.
The protagonists of change must be Cubans, but solidarity is always
necessary. In UNPACU we try to be realistic and never forget the
feelings of the majority, the opinion of the people, our friends and the
world in general. We always want to take the greatest advantage for the
cause of freedom and open any space we can for freedom.
Sanchez. What do you expect from the visit of Pope Francis to Santiago
de Cuba in September?
Reyna. We want to tell him that Cuba has not changed much since the
visit of John Paul II and continues to be the same country that then
Archbishop Pedro Meurice presented to the Polish pope. We hope that he
can intercede for the political prisoners and be heard by Raul Castro.
We will also tell him that the solidarity of the Church with the
oppressed is always appreciated by many and that we hope his visit will
be positive for our people and for the Church.
Source: Yusmila Reyna: "UNPACU's Challenge Is To Turn Sympathizers into
Activists" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba -