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Even young Cubans concerned about dissidents
By Guillermo I. Martinez Sun Sentinel

For more than 50 years, many experts have pointed out that hard-line, anti-Castro exiles have been dying. They say the newer generations do not care as much about what happens in Cuba, and soon you will be able to talk about relations with Cuba in the community without anyone raising an eyebrow. They have polls that show the decreasing number of the historic exiles — those who came in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Those are the ones who still dream of a Cuba without the Castro brothers. It is unlikely they will live to see that day. But the cause they have defended is very much alive — despite what polls say — in younger Cubans. There are still many younger Cuban dedicated to publicizing the plight of dissidents in Cuba. Some went to the Summit of the Americas in Panama earlier this year to protest, and were beaten by Castro's security forces on hand to protect Raul Castro and to make sure the only voice heard was that of the Cuban government. Orlando Gutierrez, secretary general of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, is one of those who will, as part of this organization, carry the torch forward for as many years as needed. Gutierrez still has not turned 50. The Directorio, as it is called in Spanish, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Last weekend, more than 300 people went to celebrate what the organizations is doing. The organization has a full-time office in South Florida manned by eight staff members and 10 to 12 volunteers. From there, they monitor human rights violations on the island and prepare a five-hour short wave radio program they broadcast to Cuba. Directorio is a not-for-profit organization funded by several private organizations dedicated to promoting democracy throughout the world. Among their funders are: the National Endowment for Democracy; the Republican International Institute, other private foundations and contributions from the Cuban exile community. At a gathering on Oct. 23, Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy told Directorio members: "We must do everything we can to end the free pass on human rights that the Cuban dictatorship has been given by the international community." Gershman said he was humbled to speak to an audience that included, among others: Antunez, Berta Soler, Antonio Rodiles, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, and Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina. That event epitomizes what the Directorio can do from South Florida. But it does not stop there. Gutierrez was one of the members of the Directorio who went to Panama to make sure those gathered at the meeting did not forget to talk about the human rights abuses in Cuba. The Cuban government was not pleased by their presence at the gathering. A group of Cuban government security forces, accompanying the delegation led by Raul Castro, took it upon itself to attack the members of the Directorio. Gutierrez suffered a broken ACL and a torn meniscus in his leg. His work continues despite the broken leg. In Miami, the Directorio staff monitors the plight of dissidents in Cuba and lets the world know what the island's government is doing. The organization also has its own short-wave radio station that is on the air five hours per day. "Fidel hates Radio Republica and would love to see it go off the air," Gutierrez said. He has reason to hate it, for the station basically broadcasts what the dissidents are doing in Cuba. Gutierrez is careful to explain the organization does not believe in violence and models itself along the lines of what Gandhi accomplished in India and what non-violence was able to achieve in South Africa. Sometime the Directorio has been at odds with the more militant exile groups. At the start of the century the Directorio gave its support to Oswaldo Paya, a Cuban dissident who collected 10,000 signatures of Cubans on the island who wanted free elections. Many in exile did not like Paya back then. He was trying to fight the communist regime in Cuba from within. He failed and eventually died in what the Cuban government said was an automobile accident. His daughter Rosa Maria Paya and The Washington Post have called for an independent investigation into how Paya died. Paya's daughter and Gutierrez believe he was killed in a staged automobile accident. Guillermo I. Martínez lives in South Florida. guimar123@gmail.com

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