In the end what prevailed among the Cuban leadership is the idea that “we have to deal with these people [dissidents] in a different way,’’ he said.
But Rosa María Payá , daughter of Oswaldo Payá , perhaps Cuba’s most well-respected dissident at the time he was killed in a car crash last year along with colleague Harold Cepero, takes a more cynical view.
“This effort by the Cuban government to sell its reforms as democratic changes, as the beginning of an opening, is what we call cambio fraude” — fraudulent change, she said during a recent meeting with The Miami Herald editorial board. “They are trying to clean up their image.
“In Cuba there has been a change but it has nothing to do with the changes of the government. It has to do with changes that are occurring in the hearts of Cubans who are convinced Cuba needs change,’’ she added.
While on a world tour that took her to Spain, Sweden, New York, Washington and South Florida, Payá, 24, continued to press for an international investigation of her father’s death. The Payá family believes his death wasn’t accidental but caused by Cuban security agents who rammed the vehicle in which he was traveling.
From long-time human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez, who arrived in Spain last week, to Orlando Luis Pardo, who writes the blog “Monday of the Post-Revolution’’ and has been giving lectures on college campuses from Wisconsin to Princeton, the dissidents have taken full advantage of the platform the novelty of their visits has afforded them.
Yoani Sánchez, who writes the critical Generación Y blog, got a rock-star reception during her recent visit to Miami, and Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, a dissident group that has marched relentlessly on behalf of Cuban political prisoners, has an event-packed agenda during a visit to Miami starting this weekend. “I think the Cuban government miscalculated and didn’t fully understand what the impact of the visits would be,’’ said Raúl Moas, who heads Raices de Esperanza (Roots of Hope), a group that connects young people in the U.S. with those on the island and sent some 1,500 new and refurbished cell phones to Cuba last year.
“For 50 years you had one voice coming out of Cuba. Now you have multiple voices,’’ he said. “It changes the narrative that the government has so long tried to control.’’
But Amuchastegui said it wasn’t a miscalculation on the part of Cuban leadership — just a risk Havana was willing to take. “I think the Cuban leadership was perfectly aware the dissidents would travel around the world in 80 days… and they were willing to go ahead given the current context of Cuba.’’
The Foundation’s Hernandez said he expects a cost-vs.-benefits analysis is going on in the highest echelons of the Cuban government. “In the long time I have been in this fight, I can assure you that the Cuban government had this all pretty well planned and calculated.”
Still, some analysts say the countless media moments the travelers have racked up as they appear on talk shows, meet editorial boards and hold press conferences on three continents are disconcerting for Havana.