Saturday before last, Alfonso Chardy for the Miami Herald wrote a piece reporting that Alpha 66 "will look to the island's dissidents to help them effect change in Cuba." Part of the headline read: "One of the oldest Cuban exile militant organizations [Alpha 66] will hold its first congress in almost a decade in a bid to reshape strategy for a post-Fidel Castro era."
I was skeptical about Alpha 66 changing its long-held strategy of overthrowing or destabilizing the Cuban government, but now I'm pretty sure that the strategy hasn't changed much at all.
Reporting about an upcoming National Congress in Torrance, California, and yesterday posting a 10-point communiqué on the Cuban Colada Blog, Chardy does point out that Alpha 66 has included a mission of recognition and solidarity "with all those sectors of the opposition who demand their rights from a position of dignity." Of course, that position of "dignity" allows Alpha 66 to be extremely selective on which Cuba dissident groups to collaborate with. Furthermore, this objective allows Alpha 66 to encourage or attract hard-line attitudes within the Cuban opposition, which in turn might create new divisions in the future. A hard-line position also serves to create political dead-ends that create conditions where violence can grow.
Last night on Radio Mambi, an interview with the Secretary General of Alpha 66, Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez (11pm show by Alpha 66), was broadcast to summarize what happened at the recent National Congress in Torrance, California. Diaz Rodriguez called the conference "one of the most magnificent" meetings ever held. A documentary was shown at the conference about Colonel Vicente Méndez, former head for military operations of Alpha 66, who led a "guerrilla force" into Cuba from Miami in 1970, and an operation considered by Alpha 66 as "the turning point in the fight against Fidel Castro and his communist regime." They further explain the importance of this event:
"The landing of Vicente Méndez on April 1970, unsuccessful as it was in its main objective, gave impulse inside Cuba to the idea of fighting communism; the Cuban people understood that in exile there was a force named ALPHA 66 that was fighting for their cause. ALPHA 66 cells began to appear everywhere. A complete underground network took shape and the results were a series of sabotages, bombs in Havana, the burning of sugar warehouses, cane fields, tobacco houses, factories and anything that would harm the oppressive government."
On yesterday's Radio Mambi interview, Diaz Rodriguez affirmed that Alpha 66, as a result of the National Conference, has grown strong in their "combative spirit" and continues their mission for the "total overthrow" of the Cuban government. There was NEVER any mention of collaboration with dissident groups. And, even though Alfonso Chardy wrote that Alpha 66's "dissident outreach program is a symbolic shift away from violence," I still think this is a bit of a stretch.
I believe, due to recent confiscations of large weapons caches, militant exile groups in Miami are being real cautious about subversive activity. It seems that their strategies have now changed to waiting for the "spark" (or some kind of internal destabilization) before launching any "guerrilla forces" into Cuba. In the meantime, groups like Alpha 66 continue to train with weapons at their private camp called "Rumbo Sur" (which may be of more priority than working with dissidents).
I don't see any shift away from violence.
[Photo above of Alpha 66 by Dando Valle]
[Addendum: As recent as last November, Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez said: "Before a gangrenous limb only the scalpel and a timely amputation is the only effective method [of treatment]. The same applies to tyrannies. Tyrants, similar to monsters, are products of nature, perverted and irrational, without conscience, or an ounce of human sensibility. Trapped in a world of aberrant fantasy, they live consumed in egoism and baseness. Their most important inclination is hate; their best weapon, deceit." - November 23, 2007]