Cuban Dissidents Wary of a Crackdown
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Oscar Espinosa Chepe is a Cuban dissident and an independent economist. He was jailed for more than 19 months after a government crackdown in 2003. When we reached him in Havana today, he said dissidents there are nervous about what might happen next.
OSCAR ESPINOSA CHEPE: We are a little worried and perhaps there'll come more repression against us dissidents.
BLOCK: Let me ask you about that. You say you're worried that there might be more repression against dissidents now under Raoul Castro in this interim period. What are people nervous about that might happen?
ESPINOSA CHEPE: Well, you know they already change. Fidel Castro, he has the legacy of the revolution and now they are another government with other conditions and this is not true that the population will be quiet for so much, you know? And perhaps it will happen that they want to make an example repression against us, you know? But anyway, at this moment, all is normal. They don't make nothing to this moment.
BLOCK: You said you're worried that they might make an example by repressing dissidents. Is the concern, then, that Raoul Castro, in order to show that he's a strong leader, would take steps? Would be more aggressive, more hostile toward dissidents?
ESPINOSA CHEPE: Yes, this is my fear but I hope the new government will understand that these steps will have a very high cost, political cost for them in all the world.
BLOCK: When you talk to your friends, maybe to fellow dissidents, is the assumption that the era of Fidel Castro is over or that this is just a temporary stage?
ESPINOSA CHEPE: Well, I don't think it's completely over. I don't think it's completely over, because also I think in the next month, all will be the same. Perhaps in the meantime, Raoul Castro will make economic reform because the population is in very bad shape. And they can only get reforms in Cuba with permit some political reforms because when the people have the liberty, economic liberty, I think we'll fight for political liberty.
BLOCK: When you think forward to what might happen now, do you imagine that there could be a period of social unrest, possible overthrow of the government? Do you think it could end that way?
ESPINOSA CHEPE: No, no. At this moment, I don't think that. I don't think that. Now people are thinking, well, what will happen? But this can change. If the people don't receive nothing, if the people see that the situation is the same or worse, they are in danger of (unintelligible) in Cuba.
BLOCK: Mr. Espinosa, thanks very much for talking with us.
ESPINOSA CHEPE: Well, thank you for having me.
BLOCK: Oscar Espinosa Chepe is a Cuban dissident and economist. He spoke with us from Havana.
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