Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) is without a doubt the Cuban opposition organization with the most extensive membership and the most intense activism.
Especially strong in the Eastern tip of the country, its activities have become part of the political landscape in Santiago de Cuba and other southeastern Cuban cities. Further, they have diversified their activities, so that along with the protest marches they’ve held recreational events and activities to support vulnerable sectors of the population. They explicitly reject violence and propose a democratic transition backed by political reconciliation.
Despite this, the UNPACU has little visibility. I believe there are two reasons for this:
First, its leaders, headed by Jose Daniel Ferrer, are people with direct ideas and few affectations; they don’t indulge in speculation and they avoid mounting a show for the media. Ferrer is one of the political prisoners who in 2010 refused to leave the country under the liberation/exile agreement that the Catholic Church brokered with Raul Castro’s government. As such, he has no possibility of traveling to foreign countries, which provide an important sounding board for opposition activity. The Cuban government has decided to have the whole of Cuba be Ferrer’s jail.
Secondly, UNPACU’s activities are in the eastern part of Cuba, a historically battle-seasoned zone, but also an area where – as a friend reminds me – there are no embassies or organizations for foreign cooperation, and no international press. The presence of these entities generally obliges the government to maintain a level of reserve when repressing their opponents. In their absence, the repression is harder and more violent, and reports received from the region indicate physical and moral abuses against hundreds of activists detained in several points there. Stones have been thrown at the houses of opposition members and noxious substances smeared on them. And their activities, as occurred recently with some parties for young children, are aggressively interrupted by the police and by pro-government bands staging the infamous “repudiation meetings.”
The repression against the Cuban opposition and against UNPACU in particular presents us with a moral obligation. I believe that you can’t call yourself politically or intellectually honest while maintaining a skeptical distance from this reality. This, unfortunately, is the attitude of a good part of the Cuban intellectuals, who have preferred to enjoy the government’s tolerance in exchange for a softened and specific criticism, as if Cuba’s problems were soft and specific.
This is also the attitude of a considerable segment of the Latin American leftist and progressive political universe. These groups suffer from a calamitous political short-sightedness that allows them to support in Cuba the same things that they condemn in their own countries: anti-democratic repression, social impoverishment and emigration as a last resort.
The repression against the Cuban opposition should cease. The UNPACU activists have an absolute right to demonstrate in the streets and attempt to change the government and the system. It doesn’t matter to me if this change is to the right, the left or the center: they have the right because they’re Cubans. The streets are not Fidel’s, as those in the pro-government hordes proclaim, but everyone’s. Just like the country belongs to everyone.
There are no excuses to justify the excesses of Raul Castro’s government: decency obliges us to demand an end to the repression.