Asked whether the dissidents and cocheros had reached any sort of relationship as a result of the protest, he declined to comment. Fariñas, awarded the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov prize for Freedom of Conscience, is UNPACU’s official spokesman.
Fariñas and Ferrer were glad, however, to talk about other UNPACU efforts to align themselves with the social and economic needs of common Cubans.
Five physicians and seven nurses who belong to UNPACU-run Health for All, a program to deliver healthcare and medicines to those in need — not just dissidents — and, when necessary, quietly refers them to other friendly doctors who can help, Ferrer said.
Two dissidents who own vehicles also volunteer them as ambulances for health emergencies, he added. Government ambulance services, the only ones officially available on the island, have deteriorated significantly in recent years as vehicles break down and are not repaired.
Two other UNPACU teams are helping neighbors fix up homes damaged when Hurricane Sandy hit eastern Cuba last year, while others are supporting residents of neighborhoods who are demanding connections to potable water lines.
Other dissidents are providing whatever food they can to the neediest, Ferrer said, and doing the laundry for and cleaning the homes of elderly neighbors who can no longer take care of themselves.
UNPACU members also have mounted protests as police and government inspectors harassed or arrested unlicensed vendors, usually workers at street kiosks that can sell food and clothing at prices cheaper than those in state stores, he said.
Fariñas said a small group of activists protested in a Santa Clara plaza last week to demand that officials in the state’s food rationing system provide the legally required special diet for a young girl with an unusual ailment.
And after nine dissidents protested high prices in a Santa Clara market last week, one participant said the event was intended to show other Cubans that it is important to speak out against abuses, the U.S. government’s Radio/TV Marti reported.
Videos filmed by dissidents, meanwhile, highlight issues that have nothing to do with politics, such as the thousands of homes left unrepaired after Hurricane Sandy and the poor who pick through garbage dumps in the city of Santiago de Cuba.
The social programs, Ferrer said, are designed “to make it clear to people that the government really lies when it says we are enemies of society, that we’re against health and education . . . that we are virtually poisoning the water.”
“They have the control of all the mass media,” he said, “so our actions must carry a political message.”