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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Even tougher times loom ahead for the opposition, warn activists, predicting more violence

Even tougher times loom ahead for the opposition, warn activists,
predicting more violence
DDC | La Habana | 29 de Septiembre de 2016 - 12:54 CEST.

There are trying times up ahead for the opposition, as the regime
continues to act with impunity, reported members of civil society
consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA after a week of intense repression and
violent surgical strikes against the independent Legal Information
Centre (Cubalex).

They are warning people that that this is but a sign of things to come,
urging people to be prepared and calling for solidarity.

What is going on? Why now? What can civil society do in the face of the
impunity with which the regime acts, and the international community's
silence? Several activists respond.

Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex:

Our team was analyzing the situation, seeking to identify why the
authorities acted the way they did against our center and a team that
has been working for more than five straight years without being
targeted like this. We are afraid of another escalation of repression of
the kind we saw during the Black Spring of 2003. Their aim is to
replicate a situation like that, so as to spark a political crisis that
hampers the progress being made in talks with both the US and the
European Union.

We firmly believe that what happened to our organization, at our
headquarters, is just an example of things to come. They obtained
information that places us in danger. It is a warning to all independent
civil society. We need a lot of support from the international community
because I don't think they are going to stop. They are determined to
proceed like this.

Lately there have been many statements in official newspapers and on
television citing subversive activities intended to destabilize the
State, etc., and there still laws in effect in the country containing
very severe penalties for those who exercise their rights to free
expression, association, and the defense of human rights. I think that
if this situation is not reversed, all of us in Cuba are at risk,
vulnerable, without any protection.

All we can do is appeal for international solidarity. I do not see an
authoritarian government like Cuba being stopped (...), as it violates
its own laws, and no one can prevent it from doing that, as it has
demonstrated several times.

Manuel Cuesta Morua, a member of the Democratic Action Unit and #Otro18:

The Government is already overwhelmed by the country's social, cultural
and political reality. It can no longer find answers to deal with this
situation, so it is employing its last resource, the last resort of
power: unconstitutional and illegal violence against civil society.

Here there is not just an attack against civil society, but also against
"pseudo-civil" society; i.e. those within the State who believe it is
necessary to somehow change the rules and policies shaping how we live
together, and who dare to propose promising ideas.

The Government is now resorting to violence because the narrative of
Cuba as a "besieged city" has lost its credibility. The United States is
no longer the "enemy," but the Government needs it to remain so. It is
the natural reaction of a State that does not want to evolve.

It's not surprising. Years ago, when Raúl Castro took over, many of us
came to the conclusion that the only capacity the regime had now was
that of repressing civil society, because the legend had been debunked.
The rhetoric of the Revolution evaporated because Raúl Castro lacked the
oratorical and narrative ability to sustain it like his brother Fidel had.

Thus, we're seeing this regime's natural reaction. It's hard, you have
to endure it, pass through this Rubicon, because it's inevitable, but
here we are deciding the future framework that will govern our coexistence.

It would be beneficial if the international community realized this,
along with all the players who are interested in Cuba's modernization.

Members of civil society, meanwhile, should stop inciting infighting,
strive to respect differences, work on those platforms on which they can
cooperate; and, above all, send a message of solidarity despite their
differences, mutually supporting each other. This is the spirit of the
MUAD and the #Otro 18 citizen platform. Differences strengthen rather
than weakening us, and we must unite.

The second is to work where we have legitimacy, because another very
promising thing is happening: the Government is, increasingly, losing
its legitimacy with the common citizen, and that is precisely the source
of our strength. Cuban society is turning a deaf ear to its discourse,
its rhetoric. People sense the Government's inability to present a
vision for this country.

In this area civil society should work to legitimize citizens' efforts.
This is crucial. We must reach out to citizens and show them what we are
doing.

This is really a difficult time. We must all be prepared for the plots
the Government has in store. The brutality perpetrated against Cubalex
and the eminent lawyer Laritza Diversent, I think, are a sign of what
is to come.

The threats against activists like Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, the group
"Convivencia," Marthadela Tamayo, demonstrate what the State is prepared
to do, as it sharpens its claws and prepares to destroy civil society.

Kirenia Yalit Núñez Pérez, leader of the Cuban Youth Dialogue Bureau:

Someone who went through the situation during the Black Spring back in
2003 told me that this escalation reminded him of it. I agreed completely.

I think it has a lot to do, first, with the professionalization of
Cuba's different organizations. Whey they do is no longer just protest
work, and it is also is expanding in terms of the number of people
involved and the quality of what is being done, with society and
internationally.

These are organizations that are having an impact on international
mechanisms, such as the Inter-American Commission, and as special
rapporteurs of the UN in Geneva. A case in point is CUBALEX,
specifically, but other organizations have also had the opportunity to
present their reports to these bodies, and this repression has to do
with this development.

One of the important things after Obama's visit is that a light has been
shone on the violence perpetrated by the political police, and all its
mechanisms, and this has to do, precisely, with people seeing a chance
to express themselves more, even if what they can say and condemn is
limited, and the possibility of these organizations working with the
population.

Organizations no longer work on a basis of ignorance, there is greater
professionalism, with collaboration by those international organizations
that support members of civil society in their respective fields, with
specific courses.

The point is to show society in general, as has so often been done in
the past, the impunity with which State mechanisms operate. And to
continue to use international reporting mechanisms.

One of the things that is most rattling the Government is that
organizations, such as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and
Freedom of Expression, can make a call and say what is happening to a
particular organization or a specific person, and people can see these
bodies expressing concern over Cuban society. And, finally, the
solidarity of civil society organizations on the Island, something that
has been there before, but is now becoming more conspicuous. People and
organizations are supporting each other; whether working together or
not, they are echoing what is happening to others.

Antonio Rodiles, Coordinator of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms:

Unfortunately, what we had predicted is happening again: as the regime
sees itself legitimized by political players in the international
community, it is going further to suppress and violate the rights of all
Cubans, including dissidents, and people in general.

I think it is a very clear message to all those who argued that the
steps taken by the Obama Administration were going to give them more
opportunities. There are even dissidents being repressed today who
called for that easing, and were convinced that it would force the
regime to take a more pliant stance on the issue of human rights violations.

But what we are seeing is just the opposite. Repression and violations
have actually increased. To the extent that the regime enjoys more
legitimacy, this will only get worse. I think it is time for the
international community to take a stance regarding an increasingly
critical situation that seems completely inexorable.

Given the impunity with which the regime operates, we must continue
working, which is what most people are trying to do, to continue to
denounce violations and to secure the solidarity of the international
community, so that it pays more attention to the opposition's political
players and their participation in relationships or processes that have
to do with Cuba, not viewing the regime as the sole interlocutor.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba:

The dictatorship is frightened by the people's growing discontent. The
regime's thermometer on the streets regime is already indicating that
Cubans have had enough, that they are protesting daily, and offering
more criticisms. This situation, and the increasing activism of both
dissident groups and civil society organizations, really scares the regime.

In response to this, they only know how to repress, the oldest and most
effective formula that they have, with threats, arrests, beatings,
fines, economically suffocating activists to pressure them into giving
up, and to send a message to the population: "this is what will happen
to you if you end up joining these organizations."

Something that also forms part of the dictatorship's sickening logic is
that it feels like it can do whatever it wants. Both the European Union
and other parts of the world are sending the regime the wrong message.
It is not being criticized, its abusive actions are not being pointed
out. They visit, and they reach agreements. The regime, knowing that the
EU is a block that cares about the issue of human rights, does not emit
the slightest sign of any goodwill in this regard. The same day that in
Brussels they are asking for a confirmation of the agreement with Havana
they are arresting dozens of activists on the Island, prosecuting
others, and the next day they raid CUBALEX headquarters.

In short, the democratic world is sending a weak message to the
dictatorship, while the Cuban people are demonstrating that they are
more and more upset about the things it is doing.

We see no other effective formula but continuing to spur the people,
attract them and encourage them in the midst of all this repression,
making it clear that it is true that securing rights and freedoms is
very had work, but that they will never be won without a willingness to
fight. One can expect a little less, or more, and international
solidarity counts, but the key is in the internal fight, what we are
capable of doing.

Juan Antonio Madrazo, national coordinator of the Citizens for Racial
Integration Committee:

In recent weeks, in the official media, there has been a kind of
ideological fortification. The authorities have acted to underscore
their strengthening of surveillance activities, and, above all, to
resuscitate the specter of American subversion of the Island. All this
while the European Union is trying to establish a Common Position, and
while the United States is opening windows for civil society.

The Government is trying to sabotage this people-to-people
rapprochement, which has been very well received by civil society.

There has also been an intensification of ideological discourse in
academia. There has been an increase in official rhetoric and the
portrayal of Cuba, once again, as a besieged city. In this ways they
work to disrupt the normalization of relations between Cuba and the
United States, and people-to-people exchanges.

Civil society must not remain silent about any acts of repression. What
they did to Laritza Diversent last weekend was unexpected. We must
spotlight everything that is occurring because the political police have
made it clear to all of us who have been cited that there are tough
times ahead for the opposition, because they are not going to accept any
kind of reform.

Dagoberto Valdés, Director of 'Convivencia':

There has been an increase in repression at the national level against
different civil society groups, and not only against those activists who
have been demonstrating for more than the last 70 Sundays. There has
also been repression against women dedicated to civic education who
wished to gather in Havana, in our case.

It is evident from the testimony of those who have been victims of this
subjugation that it is getting visibly worse, and there has also been a
recent spike in political propaganda. Everything is concocted to sustain
the argument that the enemy is lurking.

I do not understand what is going on, because it is not logical. You
would think that, given the international situation, so favorable for
this system, and the internal situation, marked by a growing economic
crisis affecting all citizens, that the best thing would be to move to
open things up. But the illogical works.

The first thing that civil society must do is not allow itself to be
provoked; that is, to not respond to the escalation in violence and
repression with more violence. Civil society must double down on its
commitment to peaceful activism, and to continuing to do the work
normally done and that has always been for the benefit of society.

Iván Hernández Carrillo, a spokesman for the Independent Trade Union
Coalition:

I am convinced that repression has increased in general because the
Government is losing ground, while the opposition is gaining. With what
is transpiring at the international level, both in Venezuela and in
Colombia, the regime fears losing its political power in Cuba, the
opposition reaching the Government peacefully, or a negotiating table,
and them ending up with the short end of the stick.

This is why the regime wants to undermine the work of all organizations
within Cuba. The Government plays the repression card to weaken this
opposition and to stifle civil society, which is growing in an orderly
and organized manner, and gaining more followers.

There are already many organizations working in the midst of this
repression, and we are looking for ways to continue to organize and
progress within Cuba, towards a truly pluralistic State that respects
the rule of law. This is a very difficult task, but I think that we can
pull it off.

Leticia Ramos, representative of the Ladies in White in Matanzas:

Senior State officials have told me that Raúl Castro has issued an order
to do away with the Ladies in White, to prevent us from dressing in
white, and from going to church. The order is that there are to be no
more Ladies in White in the country.

Organizations must speak out and demand their rights. The regime should
be ordered to stop this tyranny, to respect the Ladies in White, and all
the people.

After Obama's visit to Cuba repression on the island has been ratcheted
up, not only on activists but against the populace too. It's a pretty
difficult situation, and the world, not only the European Union and the
United States, should take a stand against all this that is happening.

Ángel Moya, former political prisoner of the "Group of 75":

We have repeatedly stated that repression against human rights activists
is on the rise. State Security has no other ideas, so it is applying
these methods. Activism has increased in Cuba, and human rights
defenders are more conscious of the struggle. This is why they are
resorting to raiding homes, seizures, arbitrary arrests, detentions for
several hours in holding cells, cruel treatment and abuse.

Independent civil society must continue with its activism, voice more
complaints against this state of affairs, and report harassment,
persecution, and imprisonment against activists wherever and whenever it
occurs. More militant activism to respond to the regime's violence.

Source: Even tougher times loom ahead for the opposition, warn
activists, predicting more violence | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1475146465_25645.html
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