She has not said whether her trip helped to gather financial or other support for what would be the only newspaper not state-controlled. But her Twitter account gained more than 100,000 followers during the trip, bringing her total to more than 500,000.
For his part, Fariñas said he has felt “much more enthusiasm and ambition” during his current trip abroad and expects to be in Brussels soon to pick up the Sakharov Prize and roughly $67,000 in prize money that the European Parliament awarded him in 2010.
He was in Poland last week, attending a seminar on nonviolent resistance along with a half-dozen other Cubans in Gdansk, birthplace of the Solidarity labor movement that pushed the Communist government out of power in 1989. Farinas said he will also be taking back to Cuba a Spanish-language copy of a book on the kinds of changes that dissidents are seeking in Cuba, titled From Dictatorship to Democracy and published in 2002 by dissidents in Burma.
Cuba’s new migration system not only allows most dissidents to leave and return but permits all Cubans to stay abroad up to 24 months without losing their residency. To return after that period, they must obtain prior permission from Havana.
Relatives of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá, who arrived in Miami last week to escape government harassments, may make return visits to Cuba if needed to handle the affairs of Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement, supporters have said.
“Now someone can be dissident and opposition activist on this side of the Florida Straits, transferring the office from Havana to Miami and establishing a command post in any suburb,” columnist Alejandro Armengol wrote on the website Cubaencuentro.
Dissident journalist Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, now in the United States on his first-ever trip outside of Cuba, joked that he might even return to Havana for a weekend and added, “This is the time to fill the gaps in the so-called migration reforms.”
About 20 dissidents have traveled abroad so far, a half-dozen have returned and more are getting ready to travel. A few were denied permission to travel because they were sentenced to lengthy prison terms but were paroled for health reasons.
Soler, Sánchez, Fariñas and Pardo also agreed that their trips abroad brought them closer to Cuban exiles, long portrayed by Castro’s propaganda as “worms,” rabid capitalists and even bloodthirsty vengeance-seekers.
“But you come here and you find, and have a respectful conversation with, [anyone] from a member of the brigade that landed in the Bay of Pigs to someone who wants to make capital investments in Cuba right now,” said Pardo.
The dissidents also said their international exposure should give them added protection from government repression. But that, they acknowledged, is only a hope.
Havana eased the travel restrictions for its own interests, the dissidents argue, and not to give the opposition a break.
The changes might brighten Cuba’s image abroad, they say. More Cubans abroad would mean more remittances sent to relatives on the cash-strapped island. And perhaps some of the dissidents will chose to stay abroad and stop challenging the government.
But if the dissidents’ travels become too troublesome for the government, Pardo added, Havana can always change the rules again to keep the dissidents in or block their return, or even turn up the repression.
“We have been seeing a little ray of hope in our hearts, that we’re ready for something good to happen,” Pardo said. “But the government cannot allow itself to be tolerant. The physical repression could grow worse.”
Soler said the Ladies in White will continue their protests marches after Sunday Mass in Havana — the only public political protest allowed by the government — and will push to expand the marches to other parts of the island.
When she returned to Havana, she said, she brought back several pairs of women’s shoes. They were in many different sizes but always in white, beige or other light colors, so the women can keep marching.