Cuba's Dissident Movement Grows Stronger as Castro Weakens

Stefania Lapenna

10/29/2006 11:05:23 AM - Stefania Lapenna

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 again.

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 non-cooperation.

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 activities.

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".