Dissidents say they are returning to Cuba reenergized
When Berta Soler, leader of Cuba’s dissident Ladies in White, returned to the island last month after her first-ever trip abroad, she felt ready to resume the grinding struggle against the communist government.
Soler had received a hero’s welcome in the United States and Europe. Large audiences had applauded her denunciations of the Castro system. And her group had secured new supporters, contacts and more than $65,000 in prizes and donations.
Guillermo Fariñas, also on his first trip abroad as a dissident, said he has gained “spiritual, material and ideological oxygen,” as well as a new and better understanding of Cuban exiles and even a good book on transitions to democracy.
After Cuba eased its travel regulations in January, more and more dissidents have been not only traveling abroad but returning to the island well-rested, with more energy and ambitions, more supporters and contacts abroad and access to more cash.
Before the changes, most dissidents could not leave the island except on one-way tickets. The government stamped “Final Exit” on their migration documents and did not allow them to return except for rare humanitarian visits.
Regis Iglesias, one of 116 political prisoners freed and virtually forced into exile in Spain in 2010 and 2011, said he applied to return one year ago to resume his work for the opposition Christian Liberation Movement. Havana has not answered his request.
Compare Iglesias to Soler, who returned to Havana on May 27 after a 78-day international trip and immediately announced bold plans to expand the activities and membership of the Ladies in White, which now stands at about 230.
“I feel stronger. I am stronger,” Soler said, because during the trip, she could “talk to other people, I could denounce the government. We went out looking for moral, spiritual and material support and we go it … This gives me tremendous strength.”
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