Cubans don’t need permission to be free

Belen Marty in PanAm Post:

Cubans Don’t Need Permission to Be Free

Dissident Gómez Manzano Wants Nothing to Do with Referendums

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Cuban lawyer René Gómez Manzano says public disapproval of the Castro regime has grown significantly in the last 20 years.

René Gómez Manzano is a well established voice within the Cuban dissident movement. Born in Havana in 1943, 16 years before the start of the revolution, Gómez Manzano is a lawyer, freelance journalist, and currently a member of the Coordinating Council of the Patriotic Union for Cuba party (UNPACU).

As far the Cuban regime is concerned, the UNPACU is an illegal organization, and Gómez Manzano has been arrested and imprisoned several times. In fact, Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience on three separate occasions.

Nevertheless, he simply calls himself a lawyer, even though the Castro regime has revoked his license to practice law on the island.

To my surprise, Gómez Manzano published an article on August 20 claiming the headline for a report I wrote for the PanAm Post about Cubans gathering in Puerto Rico was false.

When I contacted the attorney to question why he took issue with the headline, he politely replied — with exceptional quickness considering the connectivity issues on the island — 24 hours later.

What’s wrong with the statement that Cuban dissidents gathered in Puerto Rico in search of a plebiscite?

It was not the plebiscite that brought us together, but the need for the Cuban democratic opposition to reach a consensus, to unite. Once we gathered, each organization presented their proposals, requested support, and representatives then agreed on which projects they would support. They included the idea of the plebiscite, among others.

I personally disagree with this idea. I don’t see the logic in holding a referendum to see if people want to have elections, only to then have elections.

Amnesty International has previously called you a “prisoner of conscience.” Do you agree with that description?

Yes, I think it’s appropriate. The organization sets a very positive example in this regard, although I must admit that with some other dissidents they have been somewhat conservative in declaring them prisoners of conscience.

The main reason why I was given this distinction is simply because my fellow dissidents and I were sent to prison for having opinions that differ from the regime’s, and we expressed them.

The regime tends to downplay the acts of those dissidents who haven’t received much media attention, or who have been arrested under turbulent circumstances. They send these dissidents to prison and claim they are common criminals.

The regime tries to conceal this as much as possible. Sometimes the international organization plays it safe and is reluctant to recognize these people as prisoners of conscience as well, even though their condition is only being kept from view.

What does it mean to be a Cuban dissident?

I would say that the vast majority of the Cuban population, over 80 percent, are dissidents. However, most are crypto-dissidents; they hide their beliefs.

Sometimes you take public transportation, and there it is: people expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo. It’s completely natural, because the economy is a disaster here. But they are reluctant to express their beliefs, because repression is widespread, and for over 50 years they’ve been taught that government is untouchable.

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1 thought on “Cubans don’t need permission to be free”

  1. Cubans don’t need permission to be free? Better check with the New York Times on that; I’m pretty sure “those who know best,” who are definitely not “those people,” would disagree.

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