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Originally published Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 12:46 PM

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Through posters, a dialogue about Cuba's future

In one poster, Raul and Fidel Castro ride in a hot air balloon made of newspapers. Their fingers are plugged into their ears, drowning out any noise around them. A blue bird similar to the Twitter icon flies nearby, its beak threatening to punch a hole and send them to the ground.

Associated Press

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MIAMI —

In one poster, Raul and Fidel Castro ride in a hot air balloon made of newspapers. Their fingers are plugged into their ears, drowning out any noise around them. A blue bird similar to the Twitter icon flies nearby, its beak threatening to punch a hole and send them to the ground.

In another, a Havana street is lined with banners hanging from streetlights.

"Citizen demand for another Cuba," the signs read. "Sign it now!"

The works are part of an exhibit held Saturday in Miami by State of SATS, an activist group attempting to foster civil society and stimulate discussion about Cuba's future. The group's leader, Antonio Rodiles, is in Miami to promote a campaign demanding that Cuba implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ratify two United Nations covenants the government signed in 2008 protecting civil, political, social and economic rights.

The posters all contain the words "For Another Cuba" and were created by artists on the island and in the diaspora. The works were shown in Miami's Little Havana and will later be put on display at the State of SATS in Havana, which is operated out of Rodiles' house.

"The posters are part of a campaign including artists, musicians and citizens of all types," said Rodiles, 40, who earned a doctorate in physics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and taught at Florida State University before returning to Cuba. "Caricatures and posters send very direct messages that sometimes words and analysis cannot."

Rodiles and other members of State of SATS are the most recent Cuban opposition leaders to travel abroad and share their work with the international community - and the large base of exiles in Miami - since Cuba eliminated its exit permit requirement in January

Blogger Yoani Sanchez, Berta Soler, co-founder of the Ladies in White group and Rosa Maria Paya, the daughter of Oswaldo Paya, a dissident killed in a car accident last year, all visited Miami in April.

All have vowed to return and continue their work on the communist island, unlike many who left after the 1959 revolution. These dissidents frequently say their future is not in another part of the world but in a different Cuba. They have been given human rights prizes and received with open arms by the exile community and Cuban-American politicians in Miami. It's unclear what conditions they'll face on their return, or even how far their message has spread in Cuba.

But at the very least, their visits have provoked a dialogue in Miami of Cubans from different waves of immigration. At the Saturday exhibit and panel discussion, many of those present were exiles who had left the island decades ago and never returned.

"People in Cuba know their rights and want change," Ailer Gonzalez, State of SATS' artistic director, told them. "But they don't know how."

State of SATS believes change can be provoked by building an independent civil society in Cuba, much like what occurred in Eastern Europe more than two decades ago. The group coordinates panels and lectures in Havana on topics like "Master Plan for a 21st Century Havana" and "The Media in Cuba Today." The events are all taped, burned onto DVDs for distribution and placed on YouTube, where some of their videos have received thousands of hits.

Rodiles said he doesn't know precisely how many people they reach, but a large enough number that he and others from the organization are sometimes recognized on the streets.

"We want Cuba to be a normal country, where we can talk among each other and change how we are living now," said Rodiles, who has the confident voice of a professor and dressed in a light blue collared shirt and a pair of khaki pants.

Part of the "For Another Cuba" campaign includes a petition that has been signed by more than 3,600 people asking for the Cuban government to ratify the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The accords were signed by Cuban officials but not ratified.

The text of the petition says the implementation of these accords would ensure respect for citizens regardless of their ideas and help in the formation of a free and plural Cuba.

"Our expectation of being heard by the government is almost exhausted, yet we have decided to bring the authorities this demand as an urgent recourse to achieve effective understanding," the petition states. "We are determined not to accept institutional silence in response to this demand for the ratification."

Saturday marked the group's first event in Miami, and it was attended by more than 100 people who gathered into a restaurant and bar called Cuba Ocho. Across the street is a walk of stars, similar to the one in Hollywood, featuring greats of Latin music and cinema, including a number of Cubans who died in exile.

Ley Martinez was one of the Cuban artists living in Miami who contributed to the exhibit. He displayed two posters, one featuring a man in a blue cap, smiling in front of the word "pluralism." In another, different scenes in Cuba, including one of a woman being arrested, are shown behind the words, "justice," "democracy" and "liberty."

"I think it's in that order that much of the hurt in Cuba will be healed," he said.

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Online at:

State of SATS: http://www.estadodesats.com/en/

Por Otra Cuba: http://www.porotracuba.org/

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Follow Christine Armario on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cearmario

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