Cuban dissident says flight to Spain is 'blow' to opposition

·3-min read
Yunior Garcia talking to reporters in Madrid on Thursday: '"I will eventually forgive myself, perhaps' (AFP/PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)

Leading Cuban protest leader Yunior Garcia acknowledged Thursday that his flight to Spain following pressure from the authorities on the island was a "painful blow" to the opposition movement.

Garcia, who arrived unexpectedly in Madrid Wednesday with activist wife Dayana Prieto on a tourist visa, added he has no intention to seek asylum in Spain, and had left Cuba because he faced a "living death".

The 39-year-old actor and playwright is the founder of online discussion group Archipelago which had called for protests in Cuba on Monday that were blocked by the Cuban government.

"I understand that it was a painful blow," he told a news conference in Madrid when asked about the disappointment expressed by other Cuban dissidents over his abrupt departure.

"I will eventually forgive myself, perhaps for not having had the courage to turn myself to stone or become a bronze statute," he added.

"Maybe I ask forgiveness for being human, for thinking about my wife and my life, and for escaping what was surely going to be a living death, because that is what awaited me in Cuba."

Garcia has been the target of a relentless weeks-long campaign to discredit him in Cuban state media and pro-government blogs after Archipelago notified the authorities of the planned march.

He attempted to march alone on Sunday but was prevented from leaving his apartment after police and government supporters surrounded the building.

When he tried to communicate with journalists and others by displaying a white rose at his window, people standing on the roof unfurled a huge Cuban flag to cover the window.

Garcia told the Madrid news conference that his entire family had been "harassed" by the regime and his supporters, his wife told she would lose her teaching post and two decapitated pigeons were left outside his house.

- 'Totally silenced' -

"It was something orchestrated by state security forces" to scare us, he said, adding he plans to return to Cuba with his wife once their lives there are no longer "in danger".

"I am certain the strategy of the regime was to keep me locked at home...totally silenced...the only thing I have is my voice and I could not remain quiet. Someone has to say what is happening in Cuba."

During an interview with Onda Cero radio, Spanish minister for the presidency Felix Bolanos said Madrid had helped Garcia "with documentation" to facilitate his travel to Spain, without giving further details.

"What we did was a way of helping guarantee that this person would not have difficulties (in Cuba)," he said.

Born in the eastern city of Holguin, Garcia was long known only in the arts world -- for his plays, as well as his television and movie scripts.

But since November 27, 2020, when hundreds of artists demanded more freedom of expression at a protest in Havana, he has taken on another role -- one of the faces of a new generation critical of the government.

Cuban authorities have accused Garcia, without offering any proof, of being paid by the United States as part of a plot to destabilise the country, a charge he denies.

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