WASHINGTON – Jose Daniel Ferrer spent more than eight years as a political prisoner in Cuba, but now he has been allowed to leave the country for the first time after the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, a step that, as he told EFE in Washington, the opposition should take advantage of to “obtain results” beyond their criticism of the Castro regime.
The dissident, who was part of the Christian Liberation Movement founded by the late Oswaldo Paya, now heads the island’s largest opposition organization, the Cuban Patriotic Union, with more than 3,000 members.
Ferrer is also a firm proponent of the view that U.S. President Barack Obama’s new policy vis-a-vis Havana should be a step forward toward freedom for the Cuban people.
“The number of activists who adhere to the stance that this process is negative is minimal ... But we’re discussing things with them because we believe that understanding should take precedence, that ... this issue cannot divide us and we must work in the most united way possible,” Ferrer told EFE.
The opposition leader, sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003 as part of the so-called Group of 75, was released after mediation by the Catholic Church and the Spanish government in 2010 in exchange for leaving the communist island, something that he refused to do so that he could continue opposing the regime from within.
Ferrer urged his dissident colleagues to “listen to the Cuban people” and come to a “consensus” regarding the interests and desires of the population they are defending.
When asked about his statement that those who oppose this new chapter in the U.S.-Cuban bilateral relationship, who say that the rapprochement will mean a new lease on life for the Castro regime, Ferrer insisted that it is up to the activists to ensure that Cuban society can benefit from the new situation.
Ferrer was in the group of dissidents who met with Obama during his historic visit to Cuba last March, a meeting that he felt was “very positive” and at which he found that the president was quite well informed on the situation in the communist country.
However, Ferrer said that the most important thing about the trip was the chance to be able to show the Cuban people “the difference between living in a democracy and living in a dictatorship.”