Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas tried -- rather unsuccessfully -- to address Thursday the controversy over the political commercial he taped for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.
In repeated interviews, he refused to offer a play-by-play of how he ended up in Garcia's ad. He said only that it was an "error" to get in the middle of a rancorous campaign between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.
But Fariñas, who lives in Cuba, stood by his praise for Garcia, and seemed to add to it. He said in a Pinecrest fundraiser last year for President Barack Obama, Garcia tried to recruit Fariñas to support an effort to bring a Havana research institute's diabetes treatment to the U.S. Fariñas said no, he said, because he felt that would undermine the U.S. trade embargo toward the island, which the dissident supports.
A few days later, Fariñas said, Garcia telephoned him to tell him he had thought about their conversation and agreed with him -- an apparent indication that the congressman had a change of heart about the drug trial. It's unclear if Garcia really did stop pushing for the treatment in the U.S. He hasn't campaigned on the issue this year.
According to Fariñas, Garcia called him in the past two days to "apologize" over any trouble the campaign ad could bring the dissident. The Cuban government likes to find new excuses to crack down on its opponents, Fariñas acknowledged, without expressing regret over praising Garcia.
Beginning in an interview with el Nuevo Herald, Fariñas also said wealthy businessmen contacted him and other dissidents last year. "They tried to buy us off with several million dollars, and we refused," he said.