“Information will set us free,” said Eliecer Avila, prominent Cuban dissident, talking at a Q&A session in Union City on May 4 about his ideal vision for a future Cuba free from censorship and misinformation.
Avila is a former student of the Universidad de las Ciencias Informaticas (University of Information Sciences) in Cuba who was kicked out for speaking out against the government. He has become a voice for Cubans who want to see change within their beloved country.
His Q&A was held at Hijos y Amigos de Fomento, a local club on 522 38th St. The event was organized by Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch University who teaches Latin American Studies and Sociology, and Guillermo Artiles, a member of Hijos Del Exilio, a non-profit organization founded to bring together the descendants of Cuban exiles in Hudson County. The panel included, Henken, Avila, Adam San Miguel, a business associate. The event lasted for little over an hour and was attended by members of the community. They were all encouraged to ask questions freely and voice their opinions.
Avila started to get noticed after he questioned a member of the Cuban government during a Q&A session at his college in 2008. When video surfaced of the event, he was expelled.
At the event, Avila questioned Ricardo Alacron, Cuba’s then-representative to the United Nations, about internet use and censorship. Alarcon’s highly publicized resignation from parliament was said to be partly because of the Q&A with Avila.
Since then, Avila has been dubbed, “the student who challenged the regime,” and has become a political activist, traveling the world spreading his ideas for change and opening people’s eyes to what people are really thinking in Cuba. Aliva has started blogging, making videos, and speaking out against the regime.
“Movements like this wouldn’t exist without an enemy” – Eliecer Avila
Many attendees asked about digital censorship and how Cuba would go about giving citizens internet access. Cuba’s internet access is limited and censored for most residents, except for those in certain professions.
Avila explained that, “The internet is the door that permits us to talk to countless people on all issues.”
He explained that revolutions have gotten their start through internet forums and the exchange of ideas among citizens and government.
A member of the audience questioned, considering the fact that the Cuban government is against him, “What gives you the drive to go out and talk to people?”
He responded, “Communists don’t let me do what I want or need to do.” He said that Communists are only 6 percent of the population but run the whole country. “The majority of the population is not acting to help change anything. Fear of persecution stops them.”
Avila said that the country desperately needs change to keep up with the rest of the world.
Christian Diaz may be reached at ChristianD@hudsonreporter.com.