Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

16 de Febrero del 2000

"THE UNITY WE SPEAK OF IS THE UNITY OF DIVERSITY;" An interview with Hector Palacios Ruiz, Director of the Cuban Center for Social Studies. By Armando Anel, Cuba Free Press.

Editor's note: Following is the first part of a Havana interview with Hector Palacios Riz, dissident and director of the Center for Social Studies, by Cuba Free Press correspondent Armando Anel. Due to its length, we have divided the interview into two parts. The second part will be published separately.

Havana.- Question: "Hector Palacios Ruiz, can you summarize your development in the opposition?"

- "In the 1980's, at the time of the crisis at the Peruvian Embassy, I began to adopt a completely dissident position. Starting there, when I saw all the abuses, the repudiation meetings, etc., all of my remaining affinity for the Cuban revolution left me. The events of 1980 had an absolutely negative impact on me and I can tell you it only sped up my separation from the revolutionary process. From there to find a path that would lead me toward the struggle for freedom was not an easy task.

"In the decade of the '80's the repression was very severe. And, well, we could say my organized link to the opposition produced the Human Rights movement of 1989 which developed in the country in the years 1986 and 1987. At the beginning of 1989 we founded an organization called 'Radicals and Democrats' and it was here that I first made myself known as an opponent in public. You can imagine the commotion that this caused within my circle of friends, many of whom were integrated into the system.

"This "radicals' group had a clandestine character because the 1989 years were not the 1999 years. Then there were not even eight opposition organizations in the whole country. Later, at the beginning of the '90's we founded what was called the National Civic Action Movement, which represented the action of 43 opposition groups on the entire island and which acquired a characteristically political accent.

"We then took a 'liberal' path and it is thus on Dec. 10, 1993 that I founded the Democratic Solidarity Party, which I think is well known among the Cubans who oppose the rulers. It was a party which established itself throughout the country, in all the provinces and in more than 96 municipalities, which counted and still counts thousands of activists within its ranks.

"As you can undestand this struggle cannot be carried out without consequences in a country such as ours. They have taken me to prison twice and I have been detained on no less than 60 occasions during my political career.

"I think the year of the most direct repression against me (I was detained more than 15 times) was during the Cuban Concilium. I was also a founder of the Concilium and one of the delegates elected at its first meeting.

"Currently I am directing the Center for Social Studies although I haven't stopped being a militant liberal as a result. This Center for Studies was really created in 1998 but its origin is found in 1995 when I was suffering my first political imprisonment in Villa Clara. I am a sociologist and psychologist and precisely there I started to create the foundations for this Center for Social Studies."

Question: "What is the center's line of work?"

- "This is a very necessary center for the progress of the Cuban opposition. There are two versions of the national question. The uniform version of the government, ideologically exclusive, and that of the opposition, which through its dispersal did not succeed in carrying out the essence of certain phenomena.

"So the Center has been of great use not only for the opposition, but also for all the people and for the nation - for designing future changes, for educating the people. And that's how we have succeeded with this dispersed opposition and without very clear ideologies.

"But now when you speak with an opponent of the government, he doesn't only tell you 'I'm an opponent.' He or she also now will say 'I'm a liberal, a social democrat, or a Christian democrat, etc.'

"We have had to study the society in depth along with the economy of the nation, the current loss of values, etc. We are working in this framework and I have not stopped being a political person as a result. What's more, I believe the Center has helped me strengthen my political relations which at this moment are solid with those of all inclinations.

"I am a man who respects the many and rejects uniformity absolutely. The theory of the government is that we are 'non-persons' but it has to be recognized that we 'non-persons' are making an example of incredible civility.

"I believe the opposition is in a stage of maturation and I think that maturity has also helped a little to consolidate the Center for Social Studies, which has always been one of its central objectives."

Question: "Now for a side question. As director of a center that studies Cuban society, what impact do you believe the Elian Gonzalez case has had on that same society?"

- "For me to speak to you about Elian's case I have to make a short introduction for you. I think the case has been manipulated a great deal by the Cuban authorities and also by some sectors abroad. A confrontation has developed in which there are strokes of pure hate. I am a supporter of Elian being with his father; it is the law of nature, but I don't stop seeing that the government in Havana has made the case from an absolutely political perspective, at a very high economic cost and at an unbearable cost in terms of propaganda.

"The welcome for the boy's grandmothers can be taken as an example. The welcome could have been multitudinous and nevertheless it was one of the least crowded events in the country. That must make the authorities reflect because it should be Elian's relatives who resolve the problem of Elian.

"Definitely, the internal opposition has been the most affected by this case and the Cuban government knows it. The internal opposition has taken to concentrating all its attention on the broadcast media. "What has happened since November here? Here's what: More than 600 opponents have been imprisoned or repressed. Right now 23 dissidents are still in prison and 15 of those are going to be sentenced, something which had not been seen in the country in many years. The problem of human rights in Cuba has become much more complicated.

"All that complexity is due to the great control that we happen to be suffering, because the case of Elian has become the order of the day and the government has diverted many people's attention toward it.

"We think it is time to return attention to reality, to an opposition that is being highly repressed and that needs the notice and the help of the press and the governments of the world. We are in favor of the case of Elian being resolved right now, for the good of Cuba."

Question: "How do you think the increase in the repression in the last months has affected the internal dissident movement?"

- "The increase not only of the repression but of the deterioration of the human rights issue in Cuba has already affected many things. The situation actually started before the Ibero-American Summit. From November until now there have been the most reprisals in only two or three months.

"We are highly alarmed; I think it is a message from the government saying that it will not change its methods, that it will crush those who oppose it in whatever manner necessary. We are not talking about overthrowing the Havana government. We are talking about transforming the Havana government. We have even said that if the Havana government initiated changes, we would not oppose that. That is a position which I believe shows the non-vengeful nature of our fight.

"What is happening is the government hanging on to power in such a manner and the society breaking down in such a manner that it appears that the stage that awaits us will be very hard, very violent.

"At any rate, changes will happen. We would like them to occur in peace and harmony. But the rulers of the nation do not understand this. They have opted for repression and not for reflection, which is what the Pope asked of them. In Cuba the communists represent eight percent of the nation and this minority imposes its views on the remaining 92 percent, which is inadmissible.

"But recall the old saying: 'There is no evil which can last 100 years, nor anybody who can withstand it.'"

Armando Anel, Cuba Free Press.

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