Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

16 de Febrero del 2000


Editor's Note: Following is the second and concluding part of the interview which Director Hector Palacios Ruiz of the Cuban Center for Social Studies, recently gave to Cuba Free Press correspondent Armando Aņel.

Question: "Hector Palacios Ruiz, you have spoken of a maturation of the Cuban opposition, an end to the United States-Cuban difference. Would it make it easier if the Cuban government sat down to talk with that Cuban opposition?"

- "I do not believe that Fidel Castro would recognize the opposition in any manner. Fidel Castro conceives of power as part of his mission in life and he has created a system of control so that it stays that way. What's happening is that the Cuban-United States difference has undoubtedly served him as an instrument of defense and to disorient the people in the world who do not know the Cuban problem in depth. In reality I have never seen anyone in a grocery store saying that there is no food because of the U.S. embargo. Nor anyone at a bus stop saying that there is no transportation due to the U.S. embargo.

"Nevertheless, if the differences ended, it would take away an important weapon from the Cuban government. Remember that they constantly accuse us of being on the payroll of the U.S. government, of obeying the so-called right-wing mafia which controls the U.S. Congress, and for some people that is believable because the economic embargo exists.

"If it did not exist, immediately no one would pay attention to that theory and we would acquire some space. But Fidel Castro is an obstinate man in power and I think that for power he would even go as far as the most extreme consequences."

Question: "If you could respond to the same question but with the addition of Fidel Castro's death?"

- "I do not believe the Cuban president has a replacement. I believe that there will be a big power vacuum at his death. I do not dare to think of anyone among the persons in power today as his replacement. I think that without Fidel Castro the system would come unstrung by itself. Those who would come after him will immediately have to move to a dialogue and to recognize the various political options. Otherwise the country will fall into chaos from which it cannot be saved."

Question: "What are the stumbling blocks that have to be gotten around for the moderate opposition to form itself in a solid bloc?"

- "The unity of which we speak is the unity of diversity. We had the first previous record of this in the Cuban Concilium. Without a doubt the Concilium succeeded in making the majority of the opposition understand that the political line to follow was that of national dialogue, not only of Cubans inside Cuba but also those outside.

"Right now with the document 'Everyone United,'which attempts to unify a series of projects of the Cuban opposition and which has been signed by 60 of the 96 groups which were anticipated in principle, we are trying to materialize that unity a little. But what happens? The government is terrified of that unity. At this moment the authorities are extremely on edge and as I told you we are defenseless because of the Elian Gonzalez matter.

"Many leaders find themselves imprisoned and what we need is a respite--a respite which the government does not want to give us -- to materialize even more then this project of 'Everyone United.' But I repeat: in diversity."

Question: "Why doesn't the sector of the moderate opposition to which you belong integrate itself with the Mesa de Reflexion (Committee or Round-table for Reflection)?"

- "I am rather well acquainted with the work of the Mesa de Reflexion. Very respectable and qualified people are gathered in it. But in my view, they wanted to design a program or project which if they want it to be more popular, they will have to expand to reach the rest of the opposition. I think that they are doing that. We have not opposed participating in the Mesa; what has occurred is that they have not invited us. It seems that they aspire to consolidate the project amongst themselves even more, that is to say, in a small solid group and I do not think that is bad. In Cuba all the alliances have 'exploded,' as we say, because the State Security has very specialized methods to make them explode from within. And the Mesa de Reflexion has remained for more than one year in spite of everything and that is undoubtedly a success.

The work of the Mesa has to be followed with a lot of attention because it is made up of responsible and very intelligent leaders of prestigious organizations. I think that one day both sectors of the moderate opposition will find common ground and I repeat, the wariness of the Mesa is not superfluous. Many things have been lost due to rashness. Anyway, 95 percent of the Cuban opposition is 'moderate.' For the Mesa to represent the interests of that moderate opposition, it must necessarily unite even more with it. I think they are on the way."

Question: "Your opinion about the so-called hard-line opposition?"

- "They are completely within their rights. Moreover the hard-line opposition in Cuba is a civil opposition. I do not know anyone who performs sabotages or who rises up in arms against the government or who is exhorting public disorder. They are simply orchestrating a line which they consider the fastest one for achieving changes. I respect and admire them a great deal. Only I don't agree with that line."

Question: "Your message to the Cuban exile community."

- "I have very good relations with the exile community. I believe that wherever there is a Cuban, it's like a ship that's adrift looking for a harbor to drop anchor. And the best harbor where any person can drop anchor is their own country. To achieve a meeting between those Cubans inside Cuba and those outside, a great deal of understanding is needed on both sides before anything else. Because what you can say from exile is not the same as from here.

"It is not the same to engage in politics from inside Cuba as from outside. All that has created divergences that exist at times. Nevertheless the vast majority of the exile community wants to achieve changes in Cuba, the same as we do, and that is the common ground.

If the exile community wants to impose its politics with respect to the internal opposition, they are mistaken. If the internal opposition tried to impose its politics on the exile community, they would be falling into a mistake.

"Certain aspects of that problem still have not been resolved. I think we must be more realistic, to cooperate even more with one another. I believe that if we do not carry out the concept of 'Everyone United,' it will be impossible in the short term to achieve freedom for Cuba."

Question: "Could you give me your impression of the meetings which you held at the Ninth Ibero-American Summit?"

- "More than a personal impression; I can give you a general impression. Because there were many dissidents who held interviews with different personalities at the Summit. The Ibero-American Summit was the Summit of the Dissidents.

"I think that the problem of Elian and the intensification of the ideological propaganda on the part of the government is in response to that. The opposition held talks with representatives of 10 of the 18 nations which were present there. Even Mexico, which has always maintained a distant attitude with respect to the internal problems of Cuba, received us although previously a group of members of the Mexican parliament had already done so on a visit to Havana, which created a welcome impression among us.

"These meetings constitute one of the historic milestones of the Cuban opposition and a clear message to the government that the civilized world, including Latin America, so given to coup d'etats, etc., is in agreement that democracy should prevail on the Island.

"I want to tell you moreover that to our surprise, the Ibero-American leaders with whom we met knew perfectly well what was going on in Cuba. The world now knows what is going on in Cuba and it is not so easy to deceive it. I believe it is of great interest to Ibero-America to finish resolving the Cuban problem and although we do not ask for --nor do we believe it advisable - to accept pressure from third parties, I believe that they can positively influence those who govern in Havana."

Armando Aņel, Cuba Free Press.

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