For most of his career as a Cuban dissident leader, through his 2003 arrest and seven years as a political prisoner, José Daniel Ferrer was repeatedly pressed by the Cuban government to leave the country and not come back. He repeatedly refused, The Washington Post reports:
A tall, charismatic man with a deep voice, Ferrer is a new breed of Cuban dissident — using activism to show the population that they can overcome their fear of repression, and using a wide array of technology, including DVDs, an active website and social media, to spread information. UNPACU [the Cuban Patriotic Union] is the largest and arguably most effective such group on the island, with thousands of members.
“We recruit and train a vanguard . . . to peacefully confront the regime” and to send a message to both the government and the population that “we’re not afraid,” he said. Their marches and demonstrations frequently result in arrests and beatings by security forces, and Ferrer has been arrested countless times.
But “if we only concentrate on that kind of action,” he said, UNPACU would never number more than several hundred activists. Instead, it combines protest with social activism — feeding the poor, providing medicine to the sick, running activities for children and “serving as a bridge for victims of injustice” by broadcasting their treatment to the world.
“As more Americans and tourists continue to visit Cuba and show solidarity with the opposition, of course they’re welcomed by us,” Ferrer said. “But if they only go to speak with the regime and negotiate with the regime, it doesn’t help us achieve freedom and democracy.” RTWT
A genuine democratic transition in Cuba could be facilitated by the rediscovery of the democratic institutions and independent social movements which were outlawed by the Communist regime, analyst Dimas Castellano suggests.