Cuba's Dissident Movement Grows Stronger as Castro Weakens
Cuba’s Dissident Movement Grows Stronger as Castro Weakens
By Stefania Lapenna
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Despite the official claims from the communist regime in Cuba that the
tyrant Fidel Castro is recovering, and could soon return to power, the
reality on the ground is that he has terminal cancer, as a TIME article
wrote quoting US intelligence officials, and will never see his throne
However, when it comes to Cuba, most of the media’s focus has been on
Castro’s illness and his brother’s handling of power. Very little
attention, if any, is put on the unprecedented activities being carried
out by the internal opposition.
The Assembly to Promote the Civil Society is a coalition of 365
political parties, movements and independent libraries. Its leader is
the 60-year-old independent economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello. The
majority of the opposition groups in the island are members of or
support the Assembly. Unlike more soft coalitions such as the Oswaldo
Paya’s Varela Project, which demand reforms to the constitution of the
communist regime, the groups belonging to the Assembly look for
democratic regime change. They don’t believe in the possibility of any
democratic change coming from the Cuban rulers.
In spite of the new wave of repression started after the Assembly’s
first national congress held on 20th of May, 2005, the coalition is
moving forward with new important projects. One of these is a Civil
Disobedience and Non-Cooperation campaign promoted with the coordination
of the Miami-based exile groups. Named “Yo No Coopero Con La Dictadura,
Yo Si Quiero El Cambio” (I do not cooperate with the dictatorship, I
want the change), this unprecedented initiative aims to promote the
importance of non-cooperation with the repressive forces and the
peaceful struggle for freedom through civil disobedience, methods that
were successfully used by the freedom fighters in the former communist
regimes of Eastern Europe. Several political prisoners spoke to Radio
Martì from their prisons, expressing their endorsement of this campaign
and calling on the Cuban people to do the same. The prisoners of
conscience supporting the initiative are putting it into action by
disobeying orders from the prison guards, even if this leads to
consequences, like being continuously beaten or taken to incommunicado
(solitary confinement) cells as punishment due to their valiant resistance.
Each of the Assembly’s groups agreed to a shared action plan with
respect to the campaign: they will be engaging the Cuban population in
every town and city. Wherever they meet people, they will distribute
informative material explaining what the Assembly is and what its
initiatives are about.
So far, it seems that the initial steps are working well. Several
dissidents in the island report on the growing refusal by the population
to attend the official meetings of the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution (CDR), which take place in every neighborhood. These meetings
are where brutal methods are planned against peaceful opponents and
those who violate the “state’s laws” that, in Castro’s Cuba, include
street vendors and prostitutes.
There is also an increase in popular rejection of the so-called ‘acts of
repudiation’ led by the State Security and the political police, who
gather as many thugs as possible in front of the houses of dissidents,
specially during or before opposition meetings. During these barbaric
acts of harassment, which often start from the early morning and end
late in the afternoon, the freedom fighters are insulted, threatened
with death, defamed and even beaten up in their own houses, as occurred
a few months ago to Martha Beatriz Roque.
Unlike in times past, the CDRs can’t find any neighbors or passerby
willing to attack their countrymen because of their political views.
They resort to using plainclothes agents of the police, the regime’s
militias and communist party militants.
During some of these infamous fascist attacks, the neighbors of the
harassed dissidents have shouted “abusers!” at the castroite mobs and
visited the victims’ house in order to show them solidarity and support.
Since October 10, the Assembly’s 152 independent libraries across the
island are gathering in what is their first national congress that will
end on February 2007. The congress consists in meetings in every library
during which the librarians plan the next moves, and distribute censored
books and reviews to the population. They also provide information about
the condition of the political prisoners and their families. There will
be numerous activities with the youth and children. The Congress aims to
raise awareness among the population by engaging it as much as possible.
In every library there are signs reading “Cambio” (Change), which are
also put in the walls of the nearby neighborhoods. Every book they
deliver has leaflets saying “we are in congress for democracy”, in
addition to the already mentioned mottos calling for change and
According to first reports from Cuba, the response from the public has
been very positive. Unsurprisingly, however, the repression has already
began. Some of the activists gathered in congress have been savagely
beaten up, others threatened with being thrown in jail and so on.
This doesn’t seem to discourage the freedom fighters. They have stated
they won’t be intimidated and will go on with the celebration of their
The “Yo No Coopero, Yo Si Quiero el Cambio” campaign is being endorsed
by the overwhelming majority of the opposition organizations, both in
Cuba and in the exile. It is an unprecedented initiative that, right now
that Castro is dying in his hospital bed, may well be the right steps
toward the liberation of Cuba.
No one should be surprised by the mainstream media blackout on these
events. What surprises the most is the silence of the democratic world,
with the United States and Europe on the forefront. For once, they
should stop focusing on who is in power in Cuba in place of the ailing
Fidel. Rather, they should start engaging the civic resistance movements
inside Cuba that despite the increasing repression, has made it clear
that “for Cuba, now it’s time”.
Stefania Lapenna is an Itialian freelance writer and blogger living in
Sardinia, Italy. She has been published in the Jerusalem Post,
l’Opinione and Il Foglio in Italy and is currently a contributor to Tech
Central Station, the American Thinker and Ragion Politica (Italy).