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    UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms

    UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms /
    14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

    14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five
    years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition
    organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and
    parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for
    only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The
    Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on
    Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others
    still in progress.

    While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the
    nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to
    describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a
    citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social
    movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their
    epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern
    Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana.

    Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer,
    UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last
    prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s
    prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement
    (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to
    what he has said in several interviews.

    Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as
    the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest
    of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings.
    However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the
    constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by
    the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.

    Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert,
    who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future
    was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing
    mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais
    Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she
    refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The
    “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of
    several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her
    family members.

    Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the
    group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has
    addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard,
    because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they
    wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now
    they are the ones most supportive of us.”

    Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use
    of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or
    external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the
    point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they
    have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago
    headquarters.

    “This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they
    receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include
    news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.

    Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in
    Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other
    colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the
    Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This
    Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the
    movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly
    with people to involve those most in need.”

    Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what
    has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already
    the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure
    of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such
    as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist
    living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How
    many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”

    Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the
    United States government was the main source, through the National
    Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the
    funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and
    what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”

    Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he
    had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers
    it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within
    the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a
    very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to
    immediately find out what is happening every minute.”

    For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a
    capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on
    the island don’t do better activism because of not having good
    leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks,
    printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of
    spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.

    The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the
    most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the
    streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary
    people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the
    number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40
    people.

    When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without
    him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban
    political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been
    demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”

    Source: UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms
    / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/unpacu-reaches-5th-anniversary-among-achievements-and-criticisms-14ymedio-luz-escobar-mario-penton/

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