"Cuba will be free one day," dissident tells Euro lawmakers

Strasbourg, France, Jul 3 (EFE).- Cuban opposition figure Guillermo Fariñas on Wednesday expressed confidence that "Cuba will be free one day" during his speech accepting the Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament three years after it was awarded to him but he was prevented from receiving it because Havana refused his request to travel abroad.

"Three years ago I could not be here and in my place there was an empty chair. Today, I say that Cuba will be free thanks not to its leaders but to the will of its citizens," the dissident said.

Fariñas, who received the prize from deputy speaker Giani Pitella, raised the diploma with his left hand and formed his right into a fist, a gesture that he said "symbolizes the force of the hope that democracy will one day get to the Cuban people."

The European Parliament, by bestowing the award, desired to recognize the Cuban journalist and psychologist for his work to defend freedoms on the communist-ruled island.

Fariñas is the third Cuban opposition figure, after the late Oswaldo Paya (2002) and the Ladies in White (2005), to receive the Sakharov award.

The dissident received the prize accompanied by his mother, Alicia Fernandez, to whom he said he wanted to dedicate the award.

"If I'm here today it's because of this woman," said Fariñas, turning to his mother.

Fariñas said that he had been able to travel to receive the award three years late "not because the situation in Cuba has changed in any basic way."

"In Cuba, things change so that it goes on without anything changing," he said.