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Times changing in Cuba, says dissident at Forum 2000

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Prague, Oct 18 (CTK) – Many things have changed in Cuba over the past year, people are no longer afraid of expressing their views and they have a bigger awareness of their rights, Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua, a guest to the Forum 2000 conference on challenges in new millennium in Prague, told CTK on Tuesday.

On the other hand, repressions continue and people are arrested especially during street protests, he added.

Mood in society has changed in all spheres. People are more informed and readier to listen to dissidents ‘ views and visions. The change is irreversible, Cuesta Morua, a co-founder of the Cuban Social Democratic Party, said.

Cubans are no longer afraid to speak up. When walking in the street, one can often hear the debates of the people who speak in such a manner in which even an opposition leader would not be speaking in the street, he added.

The government is trying to adapt to the situation and the new era, Cuesta Morua said.

However, it has turned out in the past weeks that it is not ready to limit its power in any significant way, he added.

Two weeks ago, it issued a decree that from now on it will no longer issue licences to open restaurants. The government sees that private restaurants are better than the state-run ones and is also afraid of people becoming rich, Cuesta Morua said.

Ordinary Cubans have an opportunity to get more money from the families living outside Cuba, can become employees of a new private business and have a bigger contact with tourists, he added.

After Obama’s visit, the number of tourists skyrocketed. For Cubans, the contacts are very important because they widen their outlook, Cuesta Morua said.

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Havana last spring. It was the first visit by a U.S. president in 88 years.

The situation is also better for the Cuban opposition, Cuesta Morua said.

He said in the past people turned their backs on it, closing their doors and not listening. Now they are much opener to its activities, he added.

However, this does not mean that repressions, arrests and persecution had stopped, Cuesta Morua said.

Two weeks ago, a group of lawyers who represent the people persecuted by the regime were targeted by an attack, he added.

They were assaulted and beaten up in their homes, their things and the data they had with them were taken away from them, Cuesta Morua said.

They were accused of illegal economic activities. With this, the government masked the real motive of its step, he added.

Opposition representatives are mostly detained for three to five hours in order to harm their activities and then they are released, Cuesta Morua said.

The next day, they may be rearrested, which is a much worse pressure on their minds, he added.

In Cuba, there are still 82 political prisoners and none was released recently, Cuesta Morua said.

The resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the USA has a certain influence on changes in the country, he added.

The government has lost the excuse it used in the past. It can no longer claim that changes in Cuba are impossible due to bad relations with Washington, Cuesta Morua said.

It cannot blame the USA for the bad development of the Cuban economy either, he added.

On the other hand, Americans can use the resumed relations for a pressure on Havana to release political prisoners, Cuesta Morua said.

“There is an ongoing dialogue between the two governments, also in the sphere of human rights,” he added.

The international community and the Czech Republic can help Cuban society if they are not afraid to publicise the dissident activities, Cuesta Morua said.

They should conduct a permanent dialogue with Cuban opposition leaders, not only accept them at the embassy and say from time to time that the Cuban government should stop repressions, he added.

In this way, the EU can prove that its interest in fighting for human rights is real, Cuesta Morua concluded.

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