Dissident Antonio Rodiles says network with exiles can facilitate Cuba’s transition to democracy

Cuban dissident Antonio G. Rodiles said Tuesday his Estado de SATS movement is trying to knit together a network of domestic and exile opposition forces that will facilitate the nation’s transition to democracy.

Washington should maintain the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, he said during an interview with journalists from The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, and Raúl Castro’s economic reforms are “minuscule maneuvers.”

Rodiles, who left Cuba in 1998 but returned in 2007 after living in Mexico and starting a doctorate in mathematics at Florida State University, is the fifth blogger or leading dissident to visit Miami since the Cuban government eased its migration controls in January.

The 40-year-old, who was detained for 19 days last year on charges of resisting arrest, said he plans to return to Havana in early May, then leave the island again for a trip to Spain, Sweden and perhaps some former Soviet Bloc nations.

Rodiles said Estado de SATS, founded in 2010, is an attempt to create a public space where Cubans can talk about different key issues and create a network of connections among civil society groups and activists across the island.

It has videotaped about 70 panel discussions on different topics and passed them around in DVDs, each containing three or four programs. Movies and musical performances also have been used to publicize Estado de SATS’ message, he added.

One of the group’s main campaigns, Por Otra Cuba — For Another Cuba — has gathered more than 4,000 digital signatures demanding that the island’s government ratify two U.N. agreements on civil and political rights that it signed in 2008.

Cubans abroad must be part of the network and can help by sending as much information into the island as possible — in DVDs, USB flash drives or any other memory device as well as other types of aid, he noted.

Rodiles said that now “is the worst time to lift the embargo” because the island’s disastrous economy is already forcing Raúl Castro to make “minuscule” reforms. “The table is set,” he said, for opposition groups to “try to find the cracks in the system” and eventually ease Cuba toward democracy.

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