Guillermo Fariñas, also called “Coco,” spoke to a group of about 40 Cuban exiles in downtown Houston. Fariñas has become known worldwide for his many hunger strikes to protest the Communist regime in Cuba.
He’s risked his life fasting 24 times since he decided to go against the Castros. Speaking through an interpreter, the psychologist and journalist says his hunger strikes have been successful in two ways.
“First of all, to be true to myself and to my conscience. And that is clearly the most important thing for me, is to be true to myself. And secondly, to let the world at large know about the Castro dictatorship and about the horrors of the regime.”
The interpreter is George Fowler, vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, which organized the event.
Fariñas says things have not gotten better since Fidel Castro’s brother Raul assumed power of the island state. He says only the way of oppression has changed.
“Since Castro took power, Raul Castro has used paramilitary forces, mobs, to control the population – as opposed to Fidel Castro, who would throw you in jail or throw you in a prison or kill you.”
Fariñas doesn’t support loosening the United States’ trade embargo or travel restrictions with Cuba. He says Cuban-Americans should be allowed to travel to Cuba so that they can give the people there uncensored information about the world. But he’s against anything that puts money in the regime’s pockets.
He says Cuban exile communities like the one here in Houston are important in the fight against the Castros.
“The regime’s effort has been to divide the people of Cuba from the people in exile, and we’re one people and it is very important that we remember that and that we should not let their dictatorship divide us.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 6,500 Cubans live in Houston.
Fariñas has been traveling the U.S. and Europe since May with the help of the Cuban American National Foundation. He’s only been able to leave Cuba this year because of a recent change in the law that allows him and others to travel outside the country. Even so, Fariñas says that law is only supposed to give the impression that Cuba is becoming more open.
He says he’s expecting the worst for when he returns to Cuba on Wednesday.