MADRID - The leader of a Cuban dissident group who left the island for Spain said Thursday that the communist government was "behaving like an abusive husband" toward its people.
Activist and playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera arrived Wednesday in Madrid with his wife, Dayana Prieto, two days after police surrounded his house in Havana to stop him from taking part in a national protest planned by an opposition group, which is demanding the release of imprisoned dissidents and greater freedoms for Cubans.
Leaders of Archipelago, the opposition organization, had announced it would stage a "Civic March for Change," a mass demonstration Monday that the Cuban government described as "counter-revolutionary" and said was part of a U.S. interventionist plan.
At a news conference Thursday in Madrid, Garcia said, "The relationship between the Cuban government and the people is like a marriage which has failed. The government is behaving like an abusive husband to the people."
"This is a dictatorship and brutal tyranny," he said.
On the eve of the planned demonstration, police and government supporters surrounded the home of Garcia and other activists and independent journalists to prevent them from leaving.
Garcia said Thursday that the Cuban government had cut his telephone and access to social media.
"My house is watched continually by people. They left doves with their heads cut off outside my house to put me off taking part in the demonstration," he told journalists.
Garcia contends the Cuban government allowed him to leave the country only so that he would not become "a symbol of resistance."
"The regime needed to silence me, to convert me into a non-person," he told reporters.
He said he had come to Spain so he could be free to speak out against the Cuban government.
"All I have is my voice. I could not stay silent. That is why I came to Spain," he said, adding that he wanted to return to the island in the future.
FILE - Cuban flags drape the windows of the home of Yunior Garcia Aguilera, which block his windows and prevent his communicating with the outside, in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 15, 2021. Garcia is one of the organizers of a banned opposition march.
Archipelago blamed the failure of the demonstration on government coercion.
It said there were "more than 100 activists under arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, acts of repudiation, violence, threats, coercion and hate speech."
Garcia said fear of reprisals had prevented people from joining the demonstration Monday.
"The problem is the fear, but we have social media, which they cannot control," he said.
Call for condemnation of oppression
Garcia said the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba had helped the communist government, which he asserted used it for propaganda purposes.
He speculated that if opinion polls were allowed, however, they would show that the government has lost the support of the people.
He called on the international community to condemn what he said was repression in his home country.
"What is important is that the international community stops looking the other way," Garcia said.
After Archipelago said it had been unable to contact Garcia, he reported on his Facebook page Wednesday that he had left Cuba and was in Spain with his wife.
While the protests were suppressed in Havana, Cuban expatriates were in the streets in Mexico City and other cities across Latin America in solidarity with their compatriots.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that Cuban opposition groups had failed in their efforts to organize Monday's demonstration.
"It is clear that what I called a failed operation - a political communication operation organized and financed by the United States government with millionaire funds and the use of internal agents - was an absolute failure," Rodriguez said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.
"I wish they [the United States] would allow Americans their freedom to travel and that they could come to Cuba and see the reality firsthand and discover the deception to which they are frequently subjected, with the aim of sustaining an obsolete, genocidal policy that violates human rights and international law and causes suffering among the Cuban people," he added.
The arrival of Garcia in the Spanish capital means the Cuban dissident movement has largely moved to Madrid in much the same way as opposition leaders from Venezuela have done.
Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo Lopez has made Madrid his home since making a dramatic exit from Venezuela in 2020. He was living in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas before making a dash for Colombia, from which he headed to Spain.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.