Top Cuban dissidents Guillermo Farinas and Jose Daniel Ferrer joined forces to create a more powerful opposition as Raul Castro celebrates his re-election to lead the Communist-run island.
“We are going to use every peaceful means in our power to obtain democratic change in Cuba,” said Farinas as he lamented the fragmentation of opposition groups, which are illegal under Cuban law.
The new group will take the name of Ferrer’s Patriotic Union of Cuba, the pair told reporters, expressing confidence that other opposition groups will sign on as well.
Fourteen of 75 dissidents jailed — and later freed — in a wave of arrests in 2003 have already joined the coalition, Ferrer said.
But Farinas admitted that this marked the twelfth time he has participated in launching a “new opposition” group.
The pair also expressed doubts over the potential for reforms under newly appointed Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, named after Castro’s re-election to a final five-year term was confirmed Sunday.
“There is no sign showing that Diaz-Canel could transform himself into (Mikhail) Gorbachev,” Ferrer said, referring to the former Soviet leader whose efforts to reform the Soviet Union helped end the Cold War.
“We will see if he transforms himself into a (Slobodan) Milosevic,” Farinas added, referring to the late Serbian strongman who was tried for war crimes and genocide.
Castro took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006 and has enacted some reforms since, including recently eliminating widely loathed exit visas needed until now for travel abroad.
But the economic reforms “have whetted the appetite of Cubans” who now want more, according to prominent dissient Yoani Sanchez, an opposition blogger.