Daniel García Marco
HAVANA TIMES — After the more than 20 hunger strikes that have seriously undermined his health, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas is still determined to oppose Raul Castro’s government through peaceful means and wishes to send “a message of love” to his “oppressors”, DPA reported.
“We always remember to send our oppressors a message of love. As a peaceful protester, one must take the moral high-ground and avoid calls for revenge,” 51-year-old Fariñas stated during an interview with DPA in Miami, the capital of Cuban exiles.
Fariñas is the latest renowned Cuban dissident to have traveled outside of Cuba, availing himself of the migratory reforms that came into effect this January.
The dissident will go on a tour not too dissimilar from that made by blogger Yoani Sanchez, to claim a Sakharov Award in Brussels, granted him in acknowledgement of his defense of human rights and civil liberties.
Fariñas, known for the hunger strikes with which he has sought to bring pressures on the Cuban government to secure the release of political prisoners, has no faith in Raul Castro and believes his reforms are mere “cosmetic” changes.
DPA: Do you think things are truly changing in Cuba, that something new is coming?
Fariñas: Something new is coming, but nothing is truly changing. Democracy is what’s coming. They’re going to try and install a democracy in the style of Byelorussia, the Ukraine, or Russia, where those who were in power in the days of totalitarianism can maintain their totalitarian hold on society under the banner of democracy. We have to bring pressure to bear on the government, as Cubans, as exiles, as defenders of democracy, no matter what part of the world we’re in, so that that doesn’t happen, so that the people are the ones who decide their fate.
DPA: Do you feel that Cuba’s migratory reform, the fact all of you are traveling outside Cuba and denouncing the actions of its government, is having effects contrary to what they wanted?
Fariñas: No, they knew they couldn’t impose conditions on us, they know us well. They’re trying to clean up their act. They knew this was going to happen. They want to coax the European Union and North America into making more substantial investments in Cuba and granting them credit that will pull them out of bankruptcy.
DPA: There are different opinions about the US embargo among members of the opposition. What is yours? Should it be lifted or maintained?
Fariñas: The embargo is a policy that causes suffering among the Cuban people, but the Cuban government’s posture causes even more suffering among the people. Before we discuss the embargo, which is an issue that divides Cuba’s peaceful opposition, we have to talk about the embargo that the Cuban government has imposed on its own citizens.
DPA: How do you imagine that the fall of Cuba’s current government and a transition might come about?
Fariñas: That’ impossible to predict. There are many different power groups, many different interests within Cuba. Supporters of Fidel are gradually being displaced from power and supporters of Raul are gaining more and more ground. As a non-violent opposition, we must try to bring about change through peaceful means. We’re going to return to Cuba so that change comes about without violence. This is what we call for.
DPA: Do think change will come in the same way the Berlin Wall and Communism fell in Europe, almost abruptly?
Fariñas: Let’s hope so. We hope it will come as it did in Germany, in Czechoslovakia. We don’t want it to be like it was in Rumania.
DPA: Would you accept a transition led by the Cuban government?
Fariñas: If not the government, then the people of Cuba will lead it. Every time I am questioned by State Security officers, I tell them that they are the ones who have to take the first step, that they are the ones who have the power, the weapons. But we mustn’t forget to send our oppressors a message of love. As a peaceful protester, one must take the moral high-ground and avoid calls for revenge. There is a place for communists and supporters of the Castros in the Cuba to come.
dpa: Why did you choose the hunger strike as your method of protest?
Fariñas: When I decided to oppose the government publicly, I began to look for the strengths and weaknesses of the regime. Until that moment, hunger strikes had been used as a means of protest only in prisons. I took them out to the street. These strikes draw public attention to our cause. You have to make a concrete demand. During my last hunger strike, I asked for the release of 26 political prisoners. What’s significant about the hunger strike is that your life is in the State’s hands. You arrive at an intensive care ward, place the ball in the adversary’s court, because those doctors are part of the State. It is the State that decides whether to keep me alive or not. If I die, I die because of the State.
dpa: How are you able to endure these hunger strikes?
Fariñas: With a lot of willpower. The greatest strength you can rely on in this world is to believe that your ideals will prevail. No one can crush that.
dpa: What are Cuban prisons like?
Fariñas: I’ll sum it up for you with one phrase: they are graveyards for the living.