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The voice that pierces the silence
By Marta Torres

An NGO in Miami calls internal dissidents daily to keep them informed

By Marta Torres

Published in La Razón newspaper in Spain


Friday, 4 August 2006



Miami- “The opposition is scared. Since this transitional situation through which we are living might finish off the system and there might be an attack from the United States we cannot say anything. Everything is a secret. They say that people are mobilized. The units are going to the coast: this is the atmosphere we are coping with. They have told us that if we do anything they will bring out the tanks on us and run us over. But we, the Cuban opposition, continue to be defenders of human rights. I want Cuba to change because it is not one person. The country is made up of the Cuban people.” These are the words of Richard Acosta, a dissident trapped in his own country, Cuba, for the last 47 years. On the other end of the phone listens, Humberto Bustamante, 69 years of age, who fled the island in 1961. From the Cuban Democratic Directorate in Miami, he sees to giving hope to those on the other side. “I call them, of course I call them. They need to know what is happening outside. It is very important to tell them what is happening in the world. Now more than ever. They are not aware of anything and it fills them with joy when they are told that people, that Spain, is taking interest in the current situation…,” explains Bustamante as he goes over a long list of telephone numbers to Cuban dissidents written on several sheets.


Volunteers. It began in 1990 as a volunteer center, although it is now a non-governmental organization operating on private funds and public funds from the United States government. They are very happy at the Directorio, having recently learned that stickers bearing the slogan “I do not cooperate with the dictatorship” had arrived on the island. Nevertheless, brows furrow when asked how they get there. Calixto Navarro, a member of the board, warns: “If we tell, then they will not arrive, but we know they have arrived and that more will arrive. They will arrive.” Calixto notes that they also send newspapers to dissidents so they may read what is happening in the world. Information is very important, as is their being in contact with what happens outside the island. [The Directorio] also works with the governments of other countries and human rights organizations. “We travel constantly,” explains Javier de Céspedes, president of the Directorio, who speaks with a Mexican accent. “I am proof of Cuba’s misfortune. I was born in Mexico,” he clarifies, as he explains that they are in contact with many countries. His eyes light up when he mentions Spain. In his judgment, “a free Cuba will seem like Spain, with its streets and its people. That is why it hurts very much when a Spanish politician embraces Fidel Castro.” Calixto adds, “notice that Moratinos, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, wished him a prompt recovery.”


Fears and rumors. From Miami, in light of the current situation, the Directorio’s vice-president Lorenzo de Toro III explains that “information is very important. They need to know that nothing is going to happen. In Cuba, it is said that now the US will attack the island and we are calling to tell them that there will be no such attack. It would be unthinkable. But, in Cuba…” he warns. Human rights specialist John Suárez calls attention to the fact that Raúl Castro still has not come out to speak before the media or the people. “It may be because he does not have enough internal support. It is very strange…” John points out that “we do everything we can to get Cuban voices to as many places as possible. At the UN, with the Human Rights Commission, we are not the ones who speak. We call the dissidents on the telephone so that they may speak and relate what is happening in Cuba.”


None of these Cubans has gone out to the Miami streets to celebrate the recent transfer of power from Fidel to his brother Raúl. Lorenzo says that “the true celebration will come with free elections and amnesty [for political prisoners].” Neither John nor Lorenzo were born in Cuba: they are second generation. They have only once been able to set foot on their parents’ homeland. They entered as tourists with their American passports. “Cubans [living abroad] need visas to travel to Cuba as if they were foreigners going to the island,” explains John. Lorenzo was able to enter “three years ago to meet with dissidents and to bring aid to political prisoners and dissidents.”


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