Cuban Dissident Guillermo Fariñas Interviewed in Miami

Daniel García Marco

Guillermo Fariñas. Photo: forocomunista.com

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.


54 thoughts on “Cuban Dissident Guillermo Fariñas Interviewed in Miami

  • May 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm
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    Three different names used to post in one day. That must be a record, Dan Christensen.
    There is no “genocidal US regime”, Dan Christensen.
    Those are just your endlessly repeated lies.
    It is the Castro regime that is on Genocide Watch’s list.

  • May 29, 2013 at 11:38 am
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    The genocidal US regime is bankrolling these “dissidents” to the tune of at least 20 Million US Taxpayers’ Dollars every year. I think that makes them US agents.

  • May 28, 2013 at 7:29 am
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    The CDR and its active members also referred to as chivatos (informers) are the front line of repression in Cuba.
    Membership is almost by blackmail. Not being a member means your children can’t get an education and you won’t get a job.
    To enter medical school a letter of reference of the CDR is required. To get a job a similar letter is required.
    This places a lot of power in the hands of the presidents of the CDR that often are corrupt as hell and require payments.

    That is what the regime is all about.

    On the CDR and corruption you can find lots of data here:
    http://cubacorrupcion.impela.net/?s=CDR

    A more complete archive on the CDR:
    http://cubacdr.impela.net/

    This article was first printed in International Socialism Journal 2:20
    (Autumn 1983), pp.135-44. International Socialism Journal is a quarterly
    journal of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP-Britain).

    Transcribed and marked up by Jørn Andersen for Marxisme Online, 1998.

    The membership of the CDRs – running to several millions – is
    certainly impressively large, but why exactly do ordinary workers
    participate in them?

    Are they signs of Cuba being a qualitatively different society from
    our own in the West? All the indicators point to a rather more mundane
    explanation.

    A recent article, for instance, argues that ‘…there is no way not
    to belong. or else you are really asking not to get anywhere in life’,
    and points to the fact that it is virtually impossible to get an
    apartment, a better job – or even a refrigerator – without being a CDR
    member. What is more this influence is very pervasive, extending to all
    areas of life.

    For instance:
    … the most popular TV programme in Cuba, Parabailar (for Dancing) which is a dance contest, requires that in order to participate you must participate in voluntary labor and belong at least to the CDR, or other
    so-called mass organizations, or the Communist Youth. [9]

    Perhaps, under these circumstances, the wonder is that only 50% of the population are members of the CDR.

    With a leadership appointed through the central bureaucracy of the Communist Party and with no powers to formulate policies, the CDRs certainly cannot,
    by any stretch of the imagination, be seen as anything other than bodies – mass bodies certainly – for the incorporation of the working class and of its subordination to the regime.

    See :
    http://www.marxists.de/statecap/cuba/83-cupop.htm

    The CDRs are a nationwide network of neighborhood block associations which act as appendages of theUrban CDR in Cuba state security apparatus, operating as its eyes and ears on a daily basis. The CDRs were founded in 1960 as a defense against violent counterrevolution and developed into a ubiquitous mechanism of social and political control. The CDR system, like all mass organizations in Cuba, is organized like a pyramid. There is a national directorate headed by a national coordinator. At the next level are the fourteen CDR provincial committees, and beneath those are regional, municipal and zone committees. The zone CDRs oversee the individual block committees.41

    CDR members spy on their neighbors and, in turn, urge them to spy on others and fill out “Opinion Collection Forms” about what they hear their neighbors and colleagues saying during the course of daily life, particularly their political opinions. The completed forms are then passed on by the CDRs to the police and MININT. The CDRs also rely on networks of chivatos, “stool pigeons,” to gather information on people’s behavior.42 The CDRs operate in conjunction and overlap with the CTC, the UJC, the FMC, and the FEU, which perform the same functions in the workplace and in the schools. The failure to report criminal activity, including political “crimes,” is itself considered a crime punishable under Cuban law.43 In assessing the penetration of the state into daily life, one young man said to the delegation from Pax Christi Netherlands, “I can’t even trust my friends.”44

    Another organization whose purposes include social and political control is the Territorial Troop Militia (MTT). The MTT was established in 1980 under the direction of the PCC and in 1992 had an estimated 1.5 million people under paramilitary discipline.45 The stated purpose of the MTT was to defend against foreign invasion, but the MTT is foremost a political instrument for mobilizing a discontented populace, intensifying political indoctrination and reinforcing a garrison state mentality.46

    In sum, there is no official organization that is not geared to combat and root out dissent and disaffection with the political system. State Security, the array of PCC-controlled mass organizations and the MTT comprise an integrated system of organized surveillance and informing on a massive scale.

    Cuba’s severe economic problems since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc appear to haveCDR in rural Cuba undercut the effectiveness of the CDRs to some extent, particularly in terms of their ability to mobilize great numbers of people for PCC gatherings and activities, another of their prescribed functions. However, during a ten-day trip to Cuba in the spring of 1995 by this writer, most ordinary Cubans in Havana and the provincial cities of Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara and Matanzas reported that they remained intensely wary of CDR surveillance, even while conversing in their own homes.47 The delegation from Pax Christi Netherlands, which visited Cuba from July 15 to August 4, 1995, concluded:

    Fear is the basic instrument of political control. The information at the State Security’s disposal can be used to threaten and intimidate anybody, including those who oppose the regime, to force them to go along with the established ideology…There is no place to escape the tentacles of the State. The distrust is unbearable.48

    Pax Christi Netherlands believes, based on both official and dissident sources in Cuba, that there are currently about 80,000 CDRs.49 That means that with a population of a little more than 11 million, Cuba has approximately one CDR for every 140 people.

    See: http://www.worldpolicy.org

  • May 28, 2013 at 2:52 am
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    Cuba dissidents are no “US agents” and certainly no criminals, Dan Christensen.
    They are people defending human rights for Cubans that are sanctioned by the Castro regime for their opposition using these repressive laws:

    “Repressive Laws in Cuba.”
    http://www.cubaverdad.net/repressive_laws.htm

    The CDR are just part of the Castro repressive system. They are informants of the regime, as you yourself have confirmed.

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