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March 18, 2013 is the tenth anniversary of the infamous “Black Spring” in Cuba. On this day in 2003, Cuban authorities cracked down on dozens of dissidents and journalists for their activism. Seventy-five people were imprisoned, enduring brutal conditions in which they were tortured and malnourished. Their crime was the audacity to speak out against the regime’s tyranny. In remembrance of their sacrifices, the Freedom Collection asked dissident Normando Hernandez, one of the 75 arrested, about recent developments in Cuba and hope for the future.
FC: Ten years after the Black Spring, we see Cuba easing travel restrictions which has allowed dissidents like Yoani Sanchez to travel abroad. Why did they make this change and what does it mean?
NH: First: It is not true that it has been 10 years since the Black Spring in Cuba. The Black Spring in Cuba started in 1959, when the Castro brothers took power by force. It has now been 54 years.
Second: We cannot call change what is in fact the depletion, the desperate adjustment of a totalitarian regime constantly in search of resources to maintain its power. At this moment, the Cuban regime is absorbed in cleaning its image so that it can be accepted and legitimized by all those who are willing to be deceived; also for those who could offer loans so the regime can access resources that would allow it to sustain its political control over the island.
Let’s not forget that regimes like Cuba’s are incompatible with the idea of change. When these regimes start to show some change in a true manner, actual changes are the beginning of the end for them; the dinosaurs in Cuba do not want to become extinct.
FC: What are the most important lessons today’s dissidents should learn from the Black Spring?
NH: The most important lesson that today’s dissidents should learn from the Black Spring is not to allow apathy to take them over; they should work every day in search of freedom and democracy; they should not forget that those who never give up are those who are never defeated. Do not give up. Continue to walk the path of truth.
FC: Much has been written about Venezuela’s support for the Cuban economy under Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – with Chavez’s death, can you talk about the importance of this support for the Castro regime?
NH: Venezuela’s support of the Cuban economy has only served the Castro brothers, allowing them to keep their propaganda machinery and their repression infrastructure properly greased. In doing so, they maintain control over political, economic, social and cultural areas all over Cuba. I think that after Chávez’s death very little will change, at least in the short term. It all depends on how the Venezuelan political scene evolves, because if the “lap dogs” in the Cuban government are able to control the power in Venezuela, the petrodollars will continue lining the pockets of the Castro brothers to a greater or lesser extent. This will be at the expense of freedom and democracy for the Cuban people.
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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