The readers’ forum

Three Cuban women speak out


For the first time in more than 50 years, Cubans in exile have been able to see firsthand the work of three of the bravest women opposing the Castro regime:

•  Yoani Sánchez, who arrived in Miami on Thursday, has won numerous awards for her Generation Y blog and for depicting life under Cuba’s communist regime 140 characters at a time on Twitter. Her work has been translated into 20 languages and has more than half a million followers. She is now in the midst of a world tour proclaiming the importance of freedom of expression. She has been met by throngs of sympathizers as well as organized groups of pro-Castro thugs. Most exiles have applauded her, although a few have criticized her opinion that lifting the Cuban embargo should be negotiated.

•  Berta Soler is in Madrid, Spain representing the Ladies in White, Cuban women who have been gathering on Sundays at churches throughout the island to walk peacefully to demand the release of all Cuban political prisoners. They have been doing so for 10 years, since the Cuban government in 2003 jailed 75 Cuban dissidents, provoking what many call Cuba’s Black Spring. Soler will be in Miami in May to be honored by the University of Miami.

•  Rosa María Payá is also in Madrid. She is the daughter of one of Cuba’s early dissidents, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement. He died in a car crash late last year. Rosa María Payá and the car’s surviving occupants point to phone messages that indicate he did not die in an accident, but rather that a Cuban state security car forced them off the road and into a tree. Payá has met with leaders of the Spanish government to ask that they formally demand that the United Nations conduct an investigation into her father’s death.

The three women have distinct personal opinions of the situation in Cuba and how change should come about. None of them or, for that matter, any of the growing group of dissidents, criticizes another or says that her views are the best and only ones that should be considered.

This is precisely the view of Facts About Cuban Exiles (FACE), founded in 1982 to promote in a civil way the facts about the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have left the island in the more than 53 years that Fidel and Raúl Castro have been in power. The civility of these women in their peaceful dissent is admirable.

We in exile do not need to agree with everything each one of them says. People have the right to disagree. That is what living in a free society is all about. But when we disagree we must do so in a civilized and orderly manner.

We welcome these women’s valiant efforts to portray life in Cuba despite all efforts by the island’s repressive regime to quiet them.

FACE members are thrilled by their upcoming presence in Miami. We, as will thousands of other exiles, welcome them knowing that we are honoring the brave face of dissidence in Cuba. Together, they are bringing Cuba closer to true freedom than at any point in many decades.

Cesar Pizarro, chairman, Facts About Cuban Exiles, Miami

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