Fidel Castro Sent My Father to the Firing Squad; I Do Not Regret the Tyrant’s Death / 14ymedio, Ileana de la Guardia

Antonio de la Guardia and Arnaldo Ochoa during their trial for drug trafficking in 1988. (CodigoAbierto)
Antonio de la Guardia and Arnaldo Ochoa during their trial for drug trafficking in 1988. (CodigoAbierto)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ileana de la Guardia, Paris, 5 December 2016 – Dawn comes to Paris, this 26 November, the sun barely over the horizon. From the depths of my dreams I hear the phone ring. I don’t want to answer it. It is my husband who does so. His voice tells me:

“He died, he died, wake up! Fidel died!”

I murmur:

“Him again… he comes again to wake me from my dreams.”

Thus it was 27 years ago, when they announced the arrest of my father. And so, this call pursues me like a ghost. No, I don’t want to wake up, he doesn’t have that right. Continue reading “Fidel Castro Sent My Father to the Firing Squad; I Do Not Regret the Tyrant’s Death / 14ymedio, Ileana de la Guardia”

Some hours later I get out of bed and from my window I can see the Eiffel Tower on the horizon, my symbol of freedom, of my freedom. Then the horrible memories return: the murder of my father, of course, and of all the others who paid with their lives for the blindness of the tyrant.

Is he really dead this time? There is no doubt. I feel relieved, as if freed from the persecution of a maleficent shadow.

The monster died in his bed, without even being bothered by his crimes. The funeral rites are already prepared. Nothing is left to chance. No one is going to spit on his ashes. And yet…

My father, Tony de la Guardia, departed at dawn on 13 July 1989. He didn’t have the luck to grow old, to know his grandchildren, he was a confidant of the tyrant. He had served in difficult military missions, at times secret ones.

On 12 June 1989 he was arrested by the political police. A month later, after a summary trial, which I will allow myself to call Stalinist, Fidel Castro ordered him shot without mercy. He had not betrayed anyone, nor cheated, nor stolen. He had only carried out the orders of Castro himself: “Find hard currency, by any means, to save Cuba from disaster.”

That day the world collapsed around me. I was young, not political, convinced that Fidel Castro — who at that time, like so many of my generation, I nicknamed El Congrejo, The Crab because with him everything was always backwards — taking into account the missions my father had served on, would pardon his life. It wasn’t like that.

At the same time as my father, Arnaldo Ochoa was shot. The great general of the Cuban Army, The Lion of Ethiopia as the Africans called him when he served on missions over there. Another two officials, Amado Padrón and Jorge Martínez, were also sent to the firing squad. My uncle, General Patricio de la Guardia, my father’s twin brother, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, “for failing to promptly denounce his brother,” as the text of the sentence prepared by the prosecutor states. Today he is in Cuba under house arrest.

All these men fell under suspicion because they felt a certain weakness for Gorbachev’s perestroika. Castro had no real proof, just doubts, from statements of discontent made somewhere, in some meeting of officers, at  some family gathering. He had to make an example. Stop this wave from spreading. Be ruthless. Exercise terror to perpetuate his kingdom… Forever.

Despite these terrible memories, I go for a walk in Paris. The city opens its arms to me. I realize what good luck I have. I came to France in 1991, the country of Voltaire, the champion of freedom of expression. Voltaire, the enemy of tyrants, whom I love more every day, because he knew the price of freedom.

Curiously, I am happy, even if in principle we should not rejoice in the death of a human being. I know that I should not jump for joy, but I can’t contain myself. Because beyond all the funeral rites that are intended to be grandiose and docile, as in all communist regimes, what I see is the executioner. The hard man, implacable, willing to sacrifice his closest collaborators to protect his system.

And his power. How can I not seem my father trapped in the lies of the dictator? To get rid of him and others, Castro sold them a perverse and criminal fable: for the good of the country, of the Revolution, he asked them to incriminate themselves for offenses they had not committed. A classic of Stalinist regimes, where children denounced their own parents.

At that time, the agency that fought against drugs in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration, suspected that Fidel Castro was lending, charging very dearly, parts of his territory, including his airports, to Colombian drug traffickers as a transit area. How to escape this trap? Turn some high officials into scapegoats, high officials suspected of sympathy for Gorbachev. My father, like the others, persuaded that Fidel demanded of them a new sacrifice, and perhaps to protect their families, accepted this farce without imagining it would cost them their lives.

The process was a sham, a nightmare. At the end of the trial the monster had them shot as traitors. I have been living with this image of horror for 27 years. I see my father’s smile, exhausted by imprisonment and interrogations. His last look full of tenderness. They did not even allow us to put his name on a grave in the cemetery in Havana. He was erased from history. Forgotten, thrown into a common grave, like the heretics of the Middle Ages.

Today I shouted his name so that it will never be forgotten: Tony de la Guardia, my beloved father. May my voice cross the Atlantic to the Malecon in Havana, where dreams are lost on the horizon.

From Paris, I think about all the Cuban families who have experienced tragedies similar to mine. That also mourn their dead in silence and with fear in their bellies, with the hope that perhaps one day they will have the right to return home.

Today, the despot is nothing more than an urn with ashes, but the system didn’t collapse along with him. The propaganda machinery is working at full steam. The political police are not on strike: they spy, monitor, intimidate, beat and isolate all those who disagree, all those who make demands.

Raul Castro has undertaken some insufficient changes, it’s true, why deny it? One more masquerade? A simple trick to escape the judgment of History?

To those who cry for Fidel, with sincere or crocodile tears, I ask you to open your eyes, to listen to the stories of the pain of hundreds of families, victims of the dictatorship. The Castro dynasty wants to perpetuate itself so as to never be called to account for more than 50 years in power.

It is difficult to have illusions; the descendants of the comandante are still pulling the strings of the country. Fidel is dead, but his family is still in charge. Raul Castro’s son directs the repression and intelligence services and his son-in-law manages the country’s economy with an iron hand.

Without hate, without rancor, I demand justice for my father and for others, the political opponents, the cursed poets, the homosexuals, the military dissenters. This dynasty of hoarders must go.

From me, they took everything. I don’t even have the right to step foot on the land of my family, the land where I was born. I have no property, no fortune, but I possess the most beautiful of all diamonds: freedom.

I offer it to my father, Cuban martyr. One day I will put a bouquet of flowers and a marker over his grave. I swear.

Reproduction of a photo taken in Cuba in 1986, of Cuban Colonel of Special Brigades, Antonio de la Guardia posing with this daughter, Ileana de la Guardia. AFP PHOTO / REPRODUCTION
Reproduction of a photo taken in Cuba in 1986, of Cuban Colonel of Special Brigades, Antonio de la Guardia posing with this daughter, Ileana de la Guardia. AFP PHOTO / REPRODUCTION


Editor ‘s Note: This text was published in Le Nouvel Observateur. It is reproduced with permission from the author.

The Mind, The Spirit, The Source Revived / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

After decades without working the fountain at the corners of of Xifré Street and Carlos III Avenue, in the heart of Central Havana is working again. (14ymedio)
After decades without working the fountain at the corners of of Xifré Street and Carlos III Avenue, in the heart of Central Havana is working again. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 3 December 2016 — For decades this fountain remained dry. It was built in the late ‘80s as an ornament to the entrance to the day-care center located in the corner of the Xifre Street and Carlos III Avenue, in the heart of Central Havana. The children who opened this day-care center never called the place “The Little Martís,” which is its official name, but rather the “the fountain day-care center.”

The employees of the center say that a few days ago some workers came from the Communal Works Company. “It seems the problem was simple because they had it fixed in no time.” Asked about the exact date it began working again, no one could agree. They weren’t sure if it was “after the news that Fidel Castro died…” or “a little before.” Continue reading “The Mind, The Spirit, The Source Revived / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez”

Now, water flows in the middle of the bustle of the most populated district in all of Cuba, a piece of the city that some consider the “real Havana,” for its tough daily life, its serious housing problems and the power of the informal market over the streets. The nearby neighbors don’t fail to find coincidences between the reestablishment of the fountain and the sprucing up of the city for the for the funeral of the former president.

A septuagenarian who was walking with his dog told this newspaper that he had worked on the fountain when he was in the microbrigades. “In addition to building our houses we built many day care centers in Havana. Every time I passed by here and saw this fountain without water it gave me great sadness. Let’s see how long…”

In a city where most fountains are dry, thanks to negligence and lack of maintenance, it is beautiful news to see this source revive.

Only Family And Guests Accompanied The Ashes Of Castro To Santa Ifigenia Cemetery / 14ymedio

Raul Castro placed the urn with the ashes of Fidel Castro in the mausoleum of Santa Ifigenia cemetery. (EFE)
Raul Castro placed the urn with the ashes of Fidel Castro in the mausoleum of Santa Ifigenia cemetery. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2016 – After nine days of intense media frenzy, the final goodbye to Fidel Castro has taken place far from the national television cameras. The remains of the former president were placed in a mausoleum in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, in the early hours of Sunday in a private and simple ceremony, as stated by his brother Raul Castro.

The third highest official of the French government, Ségolène Royal, explained to AFP that, “There was no speech, it was very sober.” Continue reading “Only Family And Guests Accompanied The Ashes Of Castro To Santa Ifigenia Cemetery / 14ymedio”

The caravan with the ashes of Fidel Castro left Sunday at 6:40 AM local time from Antonio Maceo Plaza, heading to the famous cemetery where the remains of national hero José Martí lie, along with those of famous patriots of Cuban independence.

The ceremony inside the cemetery was attended only by family members of the deceased leader and “specially invited guests,” as confirmed by the national press. The cemetery remained closed throughout the duration of the farewell and guests entered through a private door, which prevented the press and hundreds of people waiting outside Santa Ifigenia from seeing them. Everything indicates that the guests included the presidents of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, along with former Brazilian presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Castro’s crypt resembles an immense gray rock, which at its center has a niche covered with a marble plaque with the name “Fidel” inscribed on it in gold letters. Although the first images of the funeral monument, a few steps from that of José Martí, were published as of midmorning, television and the official press did not air the news until several hours later.

During the placement of the urn with the ashes of Castro in Santa Ifigenia, the official television only broadcast scenes of the massive event of the night before, which, according to official figures, involved more than half a million people and where President Raul Castro extolled voluntarism and the tenacity of his brother.

In the streets of Santiago and at the advance of the funeral procession, thousands of people shouted slogans such as “I am Fidel!” and “Long live Fidel!” The procession that moved the remains to the cemetery was presided over by the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, and deputy FAR ministers Ramón Espinosa Martin and Joaquin Quinta Solas.

The ashes of Fidel Castro arrived in Santiago de Cuba after a journey of almost 600 miles from Havana, that lasted about four days. The leader of the Revolution died on 25 November, at age 90.

Questions After Burying Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Funeral acts to say goodbye to Fidel Castro's ashes in Havana (EFE)
Funeral acts to say goodbye to Fidel Castro’s ashes in Havana (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 December 2016 — Almost no one knows how his final hours passed. Did he die suddenly of a cardiac arrest, did he agonize for several days, or did he suffocate because a throat obstruction, as rumors circulate sotto voce in Havana ?

Why the hurry to cremate him? Was it that they didn’t want his final image to be that of a fragile and shrunken old man with a deranged expression? Is that why they made the people file past a photograph of the heroic Comandante on the Sierra Maestra? There is an old tradition of revolutionary primness. One of Stalin’s last requests was that his mustache be well combed. Continue reading “Questions After Burying Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

Why did they place the urn with the ashes in the Granma Hall of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, far from the presence of the multitudes? Did they fear the improbable scenario that passions might overflow?

Or did they only want for his old comrades-in-arms, like Ramiro Valdés, to bid farewell privately to the caudillo and chief who guided them to victory and turned them into important — though hated and feared — personages?

Is it true that the Comandante’s mortal remains did not travel in the precarious jeep that allegedly carried them to their final destination so as not to endanger them on a pothole-riddled road made hard to navigate by government neglect? Did the idea of giving Cubans a symbolic farewell prevail? What did it matter if the vehicle carried sand or the ashes of another dead man if the act was purely ritual? If Raúl swapped Hugo Chávez’s cadaver, why wouldn’t he do the same with his own brother’s?

Is it true that they planned to switch the ashes at dawn Sunday, shortly before the burial? Using a body double was a trick that Fidel Castro used frequently in life. Was the custom followed after his death? Is that an example of the revolutionary cunning Fidel boasted of so often when he inhabited this vale of tears?

Why did no one interview his official widow and the five sons he had with her? Why didn’t the journalists record the reactions of the other 10 (more or less) unofficial heirs known or presumed to be his? Or the reactions of the 10 other grieving and presumably desperate women who at one time loved the Maximum Leader and dared to give birth to his child?

Is it true that between Raúl’s and Fidel’s families there are barely any channels of communication? Is it true that Raúl’s heirs consider themselves devoted revolutionaries and see their cousins as contemptible bon vivants who mindlessly waste the resources given to them in the sins of the dolce vita, while they themselves aggrandize the legacy of their elders in patriotic endeavors?

Or is it perhaps the domestic and familial variant of the face-off between Fidelistas and Raulistas who, according to the well-informed, has existed deep in the ruling cupola ever since, precipitously in 2006, Raúl came to power hanging from Fidel’s bowels, severely damaged by diverticulitis?

How does Raúl Castro really feels after the disappearance of the older brother who gave him the ideas, the vital drive, the structure of values, who made him Comandante, then Minister, then President and handed him a country he could make or break at will, all the time reminding him that he was an intellectually inferior pygmy without imagination, learning or charisma?

Is Raúl a victim of the love-hate and admiration-rejection provoked by relationships where one party feels he is someone else’s caboose? Does he resent the humiliations received or does he thank Fidel for giving him a remarkable life? Gratitude is the most difficult emotion to handle by most human beings.

Is Raúl aware that the solid juvenile adherence aroused in him by his brother-hero turned to a critical evaluation of the brother-loony with more darkness than glow who lived in a universe of unhinged words or initiatives — dwarf cows, moringa plantations and a thousand other inanities — that gradually destroyed the material foundation of Cubans’ coexistence?

There remains, of course, the most important of all questions. What will happen in the future, now that Fidel Castro lies in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery under a heavy stone, near José Martí’s tomb? That will be the subject of a future article.

Placing The Remains Of Fidel Castro With Those Of Martí Divides Cubans / 14ymedio, Pedro Campo

The mausoleum that holds the remains of José Martí in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba. (Marie, Flickr)
The mausoleum that holds the remains of José Martí in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba. (Marie, Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 3 December 2016 – Genius and figure to the grave, the boy born in Birán, who led an armed Revolution from the Sierra Maestra and governed Cuba for almost 60 years from Havana, wanted his ashes placed for eternity in Santiago de Cuba, near to the tomb of José Martí, in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.

This could become one of the most controversial of all Fidel Castro’s decisions made throughout his life, for a simple reason: When we need equanimity and closeness between all Cubans, this could stimulate more divisions, given that the figure of Martí is ecumenical, while that of Fidel is divisive and, for many, a figure of conflict. Continue reading “Placing The Remains Of Fidel Castro With Those Of Martí Divides Cubans / 14ymedio, Pedro Campo”

The location of the remains of the former president near to those of Martí is already being taken as a provocation by an important share of Cubans, and it is possible that some may not rest until they see them well away from those of Martí.

There are sad precedents in our history. Suffice it to recall the consequences of an alleged desecration of the tomb* of Don Gonzalo de Castañón in colonial times or disturbances during the armed and outrageous attack during the reception of the ashes of Mella in the Republic in 1933. Those events generated great confrontation among Cubans and left enduring marks.

The choice of this place, in addition to being controversial, will demand an enormous security effort and a substantial cost in resources and measures to guarantee the protection of the ashes. Given the foreseeable threats, a broad deployment of surveillance may be necessary, with a great number of professionals and technically sophisticated measures, because the ways in which people will attempt to remove the remains from there could be wide-ranging.

The personal security of Fidel Castro does not rest with his death. To avoid future complications, it might be suggested to the government of his brother that his remains rest only a few days in Santa Ifigena and then be taken to a less controversial place, where they can be honored by his admirers without causing litigation as, for example, the Sierra Maestra, symbol of the struggle, perhaps on Pico Turquino itself, the highest peak in Cuba, where there is a bust of Martí placed by Celia Sanchez, the unforgettable combatant close to Fidel.

Something like the general president thought of for himself, on the 2nd Front.

That might be a wise decision by Raul Castro’s government and an important contribution to the future reunification and peace of the Cuban homeland, for which Martí will always be the Apostle, founder of the nation, and shelter of all its children, while Fidel Castro is considered only by his followers as the most distinguished of his successors.

*Translator’s note: In 1871 eight medical students were executed after having been purposely but falsely accused of desecrating the tomb of this Spanish journalist.

No Statues Or Monuments Will Raised In Fidel Castro’s Memory / 14ymedio

Raul Castro speaks during the ceremony of farewell to Fidel Castro on Saturday in the Antonio Maceo Plaza of the Revolution in Santiago de Cuba. (EFE)
Raul Castro speaks during the ceremony of farewell to Fidel Castro on Saturday in the Antonio Maceo Plaza of the Revolution in Santiago de Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 December 2016 – A somewhat hoarse and visibly tired Raul Castro gave the main speech at the final massive act of homage to Fidel Castro in the Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba. The general president focused his speech on the voluntarism espoused by his brother and highlighted the phrase “Sí se puede” – Yes we can – as a summary of the actions of the fallen leader.

Those who expected a speech with definitions of the future direction the country will take after the death of the historic leader, had to be satisfied with a speech that the president devoted to reviewing the national history of the last six decades.

Raul Castro recalled the main events in the life of the country while his brother was in command. The Cuban president stressed the difficult years of the Special Period, when the Soviet Union disappeared and the island lost the millions in subsidies that had supported its economy. Continue reading “No Statues Or Monuments Will Raised In Fidel Castro’s Memory / 14ymedio”

Raul Castro said that Fidel Castro’s name and figure will not be used to name public places, streets or plazas, nor to raise monuments, busts or statues in his memory. A desire expressed by the deceased, who, according to the president, “rejected every kind of manifestation of a cult of personality.”

In the next session of the National Assembly there will be proposals to ensure that Fidel Castro’s desire in this regard is honored, announced his brother

At the event, which attracted thousands of people, representatives of pro-government organizations took the floor, including the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the University Student Federation (FEU).

“Today we must say that children, teenagers and young people aspire to be like Fidel,” emphasized the first secretary of the Young Communist Union, Suselys Morfa, popularly known as the “millionaire psychologist” for her combative attitude during the Americas Summit in Panama.

Miguel Barnet, president of the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC) said that “Fidel broke the traditional political scheme” and added that “Cuba without Fidel will not be the Cuba it is today.”

From the audience congregated in the plaza were heard slogans in the style of “Raul is Fidel” as a form of adherence to the system imposed since 1959, “Raul, amigo, the people are with you,” and the repetition of “Sí se puede,” as an echo of the words of the principal speaker.

In the main grandstand were sitting presidents Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro, as well as ex-presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; and the Argentine soccer player Diego Armando Maradona.

Raul Castro summed up the work of his brother as someone who, “yes, he could” and called to continue building socialism in Cuba “or, and it’s the same thing, to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the homeland.”

Tonight will be the last vigil over Fidel Castro’s ashes, after four days of crossing Cuban territory from Havana. On Sunday he will be buried in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in a ceremony that Raul Castro labeled as “simple.”

Opposition groups in the eastern part of the country, especially the Patriotic Union of Cuba, has denounced the strong surveillance operation around the homes of their activists.

Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Eats But Rejects Food from Police / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)
Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth). (Artist File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 December 2016 — Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), began to eat the food, his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, told this newspaper. A week after his arrest for painting graffiti on a central Havana street corner and posting a video on his Facebook profile, the artist is still waiting to be released or presented with charges.

Machado explained that she was able to see her son today, and bring him some food at the Zapata and C Police Station in Vedado, where Maldonado is being detained. Continue reading “Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Eats But Rejects Food from Police / 14ymedio”

The prosecution has not acted to date, although it is expected that El Sexto will be released on Sunday, according to his mother.

“He has refused to eat the food they give him in the station,” Machado said. On Tuesday, relatives of the artist reported that he had been severely beaten and was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her, from the detention center in Guanabacoa, a township east of the Cuban capital.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest. “He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Where Are Che’s Bones ? / 14ymedio, Bertrand de la Grange

Pit where the remains where, in 1997, the remains of 'Che' Guevara and several of his colleagues were found in Vallegrande, Bolivia.(BdG)
Pit where the remains where, in 1997, the remains of ‘Che’ Guevara and several of his colleagues were found in Vallegrande, Bolivia.(BdG)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertrand de la Grange, 1 December 2016 – In the Santa Clara mausoleum everything is genuine. Except, perhaps, Che’s bones. Thousands of people are making pilgrimages lately to this giant stone building to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ernesto Guevara’s death. Official history says that a team of Cuban forensic scientists found his skeleton in eastern Bolivia and repatriated it in July of 1997. Ten years later, however, there were the first indicators that cast doubt on this version.

Three European experts – Dr Jose Antonio Sanchez, director of the School of Legal Medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid; his colleague José Antonio García-Andrade, from the same university, and a French physician specializing in forensic anthropology and archeology – have analyzed the technical documentation used by the Cubans. Continue reading “Where Are Che’s Bones ? / 14ymedio, Bertrand de la Grange”

“Scientific Accomplishment.” Thus, Havana classified the discovery of Che’s bones, made by a team directed by Cuban forensic scientist Jorge Gonzalez. He was buried with six other guerrillas – three Cubans, two Bolivians and a Peruvian – in a pit a few yards from the airstrip of Vallegrande, a town of 6,000 inhabitants near La Higuera, the village when the Argentinean was murdered by the Bolivian Army on 9 October 1967.

The triumphal arrival of the coffin in Havana, on 13 July 1997, gave the communist government a great political victory a time when Cubans were suffering from hunger following the collapse of the USSR, the country’s principal ally and supporter. The guerrilla’s capacity for sacrifice, despite his failure of his stated aim to create “many Vietnams” in Latin America, was an example that every Cuban should follow to endure hardships. The timing of the discovery of the grave could not have been more opportune: a few days from the most emblematic date of the Cuban Revolution, 26 July, and a few weeks from the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party and the 20th anniversary of the death of the “Heroic Guerilla.”

Operation Che was directed personally by the two Castro brothers through the men in whom they had the most confidence, Ramiro Valdes, Jorge Bolaños and General Fernando Vecino Alegret. Fidel Castro himself asked Bolivian president Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada directly, and he entrusted all responsibility for the operation to a common friend, Franklin Anaya Panka, then Bolivian Ambassador in Cuba. In a meeting we had at his home in La Paz, Panka bragged about the matter while showing me a letter from the Cuban president addressed to Sanchez de Lozada, who had gladly accepted the proposal from his “friend Fidel.”

In their desire to demoralize the guerrillas, the military used to bury the rebels in secret graves. It was known that most of the 36 dead guerrillas, from a troop that never exceeded 50, had been buried on the outskirts of Vallegrande. At the end of 1995 General Mario Vargas Salinas, who had fought the insurgency, broke his silence and said that Che’s body was near the airport runway. He didn’t know the exact place. The person charged with burying the guerrillas, Lieutenant Colonel Andres Selich, had taken the secret to his own grave when he was murdered in 1973. “Che was buried separately from the rest,” said the official’s widow from her house in Asuncion, Paraguay.

According to Vargas, six of the seven guerrillas killed in La Higuera were in a single grave, confirming that the Argentinean had been buried separately. However, when the Cubans, overseen by a “special commission” led by Panka Anaya, finally found the grave on 28 June 1997, they found seven skeletons. There was no time for digressions. Doctor Jorge Gonzales, then the director of the Havana Institute of Legal Medicine, designated one of the seven skeletons as Che’s, before subjecting it to any scientific proof.

“As of 29 June we were convinced that E-2 was the skeleton of Che,” Doctor Gonzalez and his colleague Hector Soto told the official newspaper Granma. “I told Soto to check to see if it had hands [the Army had amputated Che’s hands to check his fingerprints with the Argentine police]. He told me, ‘Negative the interested party,’ which is police language that we use. And indeed, it didn’t have hands.” Something, however, clouded the joy of Doctor Gonzalez. The doctor agreed to an interview with Granma which “worried” him when he saw a jacket and a belt on skeleton E-2. And that was because, according to the historic investigation undertaken by the Cubans and confirmed by other sources, Che had been buried without his clothing, which had been removed before the autopsy.

The last thing Doctor Moises Abraham expected was that the past would pursue him to a refuge in the Mexican city of Puebla. Abraham was the director of Vallegrande Hosptial in 1967 and was in charge of amputating Che’s hands, after completing the autopsy. The visit of the Cuban historian Froilan Gonzalez must not have given him much pleasure. “It was surprising, he never imagined it,” remembers the historian. “However, he tried to be courteous.” It was in the eighties. Froilan Gonzalez was immersed in the mission to find the bones of the guerrillas and rescue the history of the insurgency. His investigations had taken him from Bolivia to Puebla.

What did the Cubans want? Two things: the testimony of the doctor about his experience with the corpse of Che and, most importantly, to convince him to deliver Che’s corpse to Cuba. “On the first point there was no problem, although he didn’t give us authorization to publish his statements about the death.” However, there was no agreement on the other issue: “He set unacceptable conditions,” says Froilan Gonzales. What conditions? Money, a lot of money. On a visit to Puebla, where Abraham had his cancer surgery practice, he was able to confirm it. That time, it wasn’t as friendly. On the defensive, cantankerous, the Bolivian doctor only wanted to talk money: “How much are you going to pay me?”

In any case, Froilan Gonzalez did not reach an agreement with Abraham. Thus, the Cubans were “concerned” when they opened the grave in Vallegrande and saw a jacket on skeleton E-2. The forensic team, with aplomb, decreed that it was Che was because no one, apart from them, knew that Che’s jacket was in the possession of the Bolivian doctor. No one except a German citizen, Erich Blössl, who had arrived in Vallegrande in the sixties, as an agronomist before buying a restaurant. Blössl was a friend of Musa, as Dr. Abraham is called.

“Musa had kept Che’s jacket, all bloody. He showed it to me,” says the German. “It had a broken zipper, and was tied with a rope, exactly like in all the photos taken. There were several bullet holes. He took it to Mexico in the late seventies.”

Witness to the exception, Blössl was there when Cubans opened the pit and saw the jacket, and he sensed something was wrong. “Marcos Tufiño, Deputy Commissioner for Panka Anaya to monitor the excavations, came to my restaurant and asked about the jacket. I said it was not Che’s. He insisted I go to see it again and handed me a safe-conduct for the soldiers to let me pass. I went back. There was Tufiño. I went down to the pit and confirmed that it was not Che’s jacket. It was a waterproof, poncho type, like the Army had.”

After conducting several tests on the seven skeletons in the Japanese Hospital of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivian authorities authorized the departure of the remains of the guerrillas to Havana.

What does the forensic report about the bones said to be Che’s say? In the Japanese Hospital there is no trace of the document. When the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) that collaborated on the exhumation in Vallegrande was asked for a copy, its president, Luis Fondebrider, said that only the Cubans could provide it. Jorge Gonzalez didn’t respond to a request. “The Cubans took all the papers. I was left with only this copy of the final report,” says Cueller, who specialized in surgery in Madrid and forensic medicine in Havana. “They have the pre-mortem reports on Che, his dental history, and the 1967 autopsy, and there is no reason not to trust them.”

A comparison between the forensic report edited by the Cubans and Argentineans in 1997 and the autopsy performed on Che at the time of his death is disconcerting for three doctors consulted in Madrid and Paris. Jose Antonio Sanchez, director of the School of Legal Medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid, said some wounds are consistent and others are not, but he believes the documents are insufficient to come to a conclusion. On the other hand, his two colleagues find clarifying elements. “It is two different bodies and they correspond to two different people,” says Jose Antonio Garcia-Andrada, who has had a long career in forensic medicine.

Both he and the French expert, who currently prefers to remain anonymous to not prejudice his own investigation on the matter, highlight the same discrepancies. “The 1997 reports describes fractures on the 2nd and 3rd left ribs. These fractures were not mentioned in the 1967 autopsy, which shows, instead, an injury between the 9th and 10th left rib, which is not in the other report,” they both say.

In addition, the cadaver analyzed in 1967 presents “injuries in both clavicles,” while the skeleton found in 1997 has “an injury only to the right clavicle,” says the French expert. The same is true for the femurs: Che did not show the wound on his right femur “measured at 11 by 13 millimeters” which appears on the 1997 skeleton. Garcia-Andrade added that “the spinal injuries are not consistent.”

The two experts also noted discrepancies in the analysis of the mouth. Che lacked a “lower left bicuspid,” according to the autopsy of 1967. The 1997 report does not indicate this detail, but it does indicate, however, the presence of a “third molar upper left” (wisdom tooth), which Che’s corpse did not have. Both the French physician and Dr. Sanchez were greatly surprised at the absence of references to the surgical removal of Che’s hands by Dr. Abraham. “This operation always leaves visible marks and yet, it is not mentioned,” says the professor from Complutense. One might suspect that the bones of the hands were removed when the skeleton was exhumed, adds the French doctor.

Plaque put in place in 1997 in Vallegrande, Bolivia. (BdG)
Plaque put in place in 1997 in Vallegrande, Bolivia. (BdG)

In these circumstances, experts agree, only a genetic analysis would allow the “accurate” identification of the remains attributed to Che. Only an independent and reliable analysis, conditions not met by the supposed DNA test that Cuba now claims was done. “I proposed not to do a DNA test and the decision was consensual,” Alejandro Inchaurregui, one of the Argentinean forensic anthropologists who was in Vallegrande, explained in March. “There is overwhelming evidence. There were anthropomorphic and dental records collected before he left Cuba, to be able to identify his remains if he died.”

So, does the documentation submitted by Havana really correspond to Ernesto Guevara, or does it correspond to another of the Cuban guerrillas buried in Bolivia? In a telephone conversation recorded in September, Inchaurregui was furious when asked this question. “You are a miserable person for arguing that the identification of the remains of Che is a falsehood. Sure, I’m that stupid that the Cubans took me by the nose and I ended up signing a document that says they are the remains of Che when in reality they are not.” The forensic anthropologist who no longer works for the EAAF concluded our conversation this way: “Where are you?” In Madrid … “In Madrid, what a pity! Because if you weren’t, I would kill you.”

Obviously, Inchaurregui is not “that stupid” but he seems to favor expeditious methods to solve problems. Che had to be in Havana before July 26, 1997 to celebrate the big homecoming of the prodigal son and give a little morale boost to the Cubans. It was Fidel Castro’s orders. That it wasn’t true would be, after all, a lesser evil.


Editor ‘s note: This article was published on 7 October 2007 in the newspaper El País.

Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez

El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)
El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez, Miami, 2 December 2016 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (the Sixth), declared a hunger strike this Thursday, according to reports to this newspaper from his mother Maria Victoria Machado. The artist’s decision comes six days after his arrest for having painted on a  centrally located wall in Havana, the words “Se fue” – He’s gone – in reference to Fidel Castro.

El Sexto’s fast comes amid worsening repression against the dissidence and independent journalists on the island, during the period of national mourning for the death of the former president.

“I had the first interview with the investigator who is handling Danilo’s case today. He told me that as of yesterday my son does not want to eat to demand his release,” Machado told this newspaper by phone. Continue reading “Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez”

Maldonado was arrested on 26 November after painting graffiti on the exterior wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, at the centrally located corner of 23rd and L in the Vedado neighborhood, and publishing a video on his Facebook page celebrating Castro’s death.

On Tuesday, family members of the artist denounced that he had been severely beaten and said he was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her at the Guanabacoa detention center to the east of the capital.

According to Machado, her son is accused of damaging state property.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest.

“He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained. The police told her that El Sexto’s phone was given up for lost, but had finally been found in police custody.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Family and friends of the artist are working with three human rights organizations, an international attorney and several local attorneys on the release of the artist, Martinez said.

“This shows how fearful and insecure the Cuban regime is,” she added.

This Saturday the prosecution is expected to rule on El Sexto’s case.

Cubans Directed To Be Sad / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar and Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 29 November 2016 — Women crying on camera, Facebook profiles turned into portraits of Comandante Fidel, long lines to bid farewell to his absent ashes. No reggaeton in the streets, no “good morning” from the announcers on national television. For a tourist, the people, Cuban and devoted to Fidel, transfixed by pain, have not lost any opportunity to say goodbye to their leader. But the reality is very different from the slogans.

“The Student Federation sent me this picture by email,” says a computer science student in Santa Clara, while looking at an image of a young Fidel Castro in his inbox. “The directions are for us to put it on our social networks and dedicate a dignified farewell to the old man,” says the teenager. “All of it, it doesn’t matter to me, but if I don’t do it, it could affect my career,” he adds. Continue reading “Cubans Directed To Be Sad / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar and Mario Penton”

Teresa, a woman from Cienfuegos who works in education, spends the hours as the sun passes overhead in front of a photograph of the former president and follows protocol to show signs of pain, which isn’t pleasant.

“I went because the union made me. If you dare not to go you’ll find out what happens to you. He died, but the system he created is just the same. He could have done a lot of good, but forcing us to go say goodbye to him seems abusive to me,” says the teacher, who added that she ended up with a migraine after so much time standing in the sun.

Perhaps the most notable case of following the forms was the debate between two news announcers, Froilán Arencibia and Mariuska Díaz, caught on open mike, about whether they should greet viewers with “good afternoon” or simply “greetings.” Finally, the direction to eliminate the “good” won the day because how could it be a good day if Fidel Castro had died?

“They put us in a huge line where, at the end all we had in front of us was a photo and his medals, because the ashes were for the leaders,” an independent worker told 14ymedio.

On elderly messenger in Havana had his own hypothesis about why Castro’s ashes weren’t on display to the thousands of people who waited at least four hours to enter one of the three “altars” in the Plaza of the Revolution. “Looking at his photo were his admirers and opportunists who wanted to look good at work. If they’d put the ashes on display, they’d have to have someone guarding them and there might have been some damage done,” he said, in reference to the Afro-Cuban rites where the bones of the deceased or, failing that, the dust of the skeleton contains the spirit of the departed.

“There are people who really loved him and they’re sorry. Fidel had a people,” a lady of 60 years, retired from the army, says ruefully.

In a Havana street, a young man who was with his girlfriend in a car complains that a policeman knocked on his window and asked, discourteously, that he turn off the music with which the couple was passing the time.

In the case of Cubans abroad connected with the country, the directions have been clear: you must first participate in a ceremony in which a book of dedications and lamentations is filled, then you have to reflect that pain in social networks.

“We want to make Facebook into a place where our Comandante is remembered and colleagues from other countries can go there to see the pain of our people,” a coordinator of the Cuban medical mission told Cuban doctors at a meeting in Brazil.

“The truth is easy come easy go, they force us to stand in lines,” jokes one of the doctors of the mission who requested anonymity.

“This is like an open stage or one of the famous ‘marches of the combative people.’ Doesn’t anyone ask why there were not spontaneous mass gatherings after the announcement? The people have to wait for directions from above to be sad.”

Police Free ‘14ymedio’ Journalist Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio

The '14ymedio' journalist, Reinaldo Escobar. (Youtube)
The ’14ymedio’ journalist, Reinaldo Escobar. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2016 — The journalist Reinaldo Escobar, editor in chief of 14ymedio, was detained for more than four hours on Thursday, in the midst of the control measures that the Government deployed after the death of Fidel Castro. The reporter gave an interview to Spanish Television (TVE) on the Malecon in Havana where he was intercepted by police and taken to the Zapata and C police station in Vedado, according to witnesses who confirmed the arrest.

A man in civilian clothes approached the place where Escobar was being interviewed by Vicenç San Clemente of TVE. “He said we could not be here because it was an avenue where many presidents were passing by,” the Spanish correspondent told this newspaper. The man remained nearby listening to Escobar’s answers. Continue reading “Police Free ‘14ymedio’ Journalist Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio”

“They were questions about the future of Cuba, about the possible legal reforms that might be made,” explained San Clemente. However, the man ended up calling a patrol car, with license plate 099, which took the two journalists to the police station.

The Spanish Embassy in Havana began negotiations for the release of both reporters as soon as they heard the news, a diplomatic source informed 14ymedio. San Clemente was held at the entrance to the police station, but Escobar was lost to sight when he was led into the interior of the building.

Four hours after the arrest, the Cuban journalist was released and when he inquired at the station about the infraction or crime which had been entered into the log book, the uniformed officer responded with the brief word: prophylaxis.

Escobar graduated from the University of Havana in journalism in 1972, and has served as editor-in-chief of this independent newspaper since its founding, in May of 2014; the newspaper is blocked on servers on the island by the government. Previously, Escobar worked for various press media, among them the magazine Consensus, which was founded in December of 2014, and on his personal blog, From Here.

In December of 1988, Escobar was fired from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), the second most important newspaper in the country. The dismissal was due to several critical articles he published after being motivated by the new air of glastnost in the Soviet press. Since then the government has not permitted him to exercise his profession in any of the state-controlled media, which exercise a monopoly over the press.

Patria y Libertad: Homeland and Freedom / 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera

One of the events in Havana in the 9-day mourning period for Fidel Castro (EFE)
One of the events in Havana in the 9-day mourning period for Fidel Castro (EFE)

14ymedio, Tania Bruguera, Havana, 1 December 2016 — Today in Cuba, we start a new phase, a phase that requires us to transition (shift) from an anecdote to historic data, from rumor to research, from passion to facts from what was symbolically assumed to what was actually done.

Time has come for us to ask for that archives be opened, to know how many truths  were manufactured and  to what extent victories  were achieved, to know with certainty how many  Cubans have  died around the world, to understand what social progress we have made and  to learn which agreements the government has  made on our behalf.

The Cuban people have the right to know its history, all of it, and be able to draw their own conclusions. Continue reading “Patria y Libertad: Homeland and Freedom / 14ymedio, Tania Bruguera”

Today Cubans have stopped being children waiting for orders.

However, refusing to be underestimated requires understanding  other people’s feelings, those that think and  feel differently. It means understanding that we are not always right and  that the goal of discussion  is not to win arguments but to clarify our ideas and send them out for consideration..

We need to stop  thinking that only our feelings  are valid because the project of The Revolution  has  been a different  experience for each and  every one of us, and  since they were experiences, all of them  are valid. There are things  to rescue and  things  to remove. It would be more interesting to see  how people have  dealt  with their experiences, what they have done with them, instead of denying   someone to feel in their own terms.

We need to start  saying  “no” to the things  we don’t like, to the things  that keeps us from feeling clean  and  honest, even  if this means losing a privileged position, because there’s no money,  no professional opportunity, no material comfort  that can  be compared to feeling free, to being  able to speak one´s  mind.

But the life project that we can create from now on is only possible if we allow ourselves to stop  having  double standard ethics, if we stop telling something to some people and then something different to others.

We have  an exceptional moment before us, not to defend a government or a position, but to create all together a vision for Cuba; one that  is not biased to either extreme,  a vision that can be a compilation of all our points  of view.

It is the time to create a new legal infrastructure that includes  respect for different  opinions and  stops political hate forever, that ensures that citizens’ preferences cannot be controlled by the government; that can be a space for fair and inclusive decisions.

It is the time to create a political infrastructure that guarantees that never again  a president can hold all powers. This has happened 3 times  in Cuba  since  1902.  There should never be another president who thinks he knows  better than  anyone, and what is better for us all.

This is the time to create a civic and social  infrastructure that includes everyone, that includes rights for everyone, that includes political dissent as a civic right,  that includes civic literacy.

It is the time to create an emotional infrastructure that nurtures room for mutual understanding, a structure that does not allow anything to horrify or minimize us.

A structure that allows solidarity  and  privacy,  individual rights and  social  rights where  the life we want to have is respected but also represents a common effort; a structure that allows truths  and  claims  from everyone, the majority but also the minority. A place  where  a humanist utopia  exists  but never  again  paranoia among its citizens, where emotions don’t compromise what is fair.

Today, there is a real task for Cubans to complete: to balance what we want to rescue and what we want to change. It is the time to stop whispering our hopes, it is time to stop being  afraid.

The best way to honor  our homeland and ourselves is not being submissive, not being a cynical nation,  never  again  being a nation  with different classes of Cubans, nor a place  from where  to leave,  but a place  where  life is a dignifying act  we are proud of.

Placing love, family and friendship above ideologies is the only way Cuba will be a nation again.

(English version from Tania Bruguera’s own site)

Opposition Alliance Calls To Open An Inclusive National Dialog / 14ymedio

Cuban activists founding the MUAD. (14ymedio)
Cuban activists founding the MUAD. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2016 – The Democratic Action Unity Roundtable (MUAD) has made a call to open a national dialog a few days after the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro. The opposition alliance believes that the country is entering a new stage in its history, according to a declaration signed by its spokesperson, Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

MUAD said that for many Cubans the memory of the political leader is marked by “injustices and inhumane detentions” and the “unjustifiable loss of human lives.” The statement also references the “uprooting suffered” by thousands of islanders “on seeing themselves forced to abandon (…) the land in which they were born.” For these people, Fidel Castro will remain “a totalitarian dictator” the document emphasized.

However, for other Cubans he will always be considered as the ruler “who opened the doors and gave them opportunities for themselves and their families that they did not have before the revolutionary process initiated in 1959.” In the memories of this part of the population Castro will remain “the hero, the father, the ‘at your orders’ Commander in Chief,” the statement says.

The declaration focuses on “a new generation of Cubans” who have “their own interpretation of our history and our reality.” They are individuals with “desires for a respect for diversity of thinking and for freedom,” and who dream of “a truly plural Cuba with respect for human rights and oriented to the benefit of all.”

The challenge for the current government is to put into practice “a set of measures that really impact the economic and social environment” and that allow “wide participation of all Cubans, wherever they are,” MUAD emphasizes.

The renewal of the national legislative political order also is called out as an urgent matter, in the document made public by the opposition coalition.

“The only path we have to achieve all the economic, social and political transformations that we want for Cuba is an inclusive dialog,” says the final paragraph of the statement.

MUAD brings together more than thirty independent civil society organizations. In the middle of this year the alliance suffered a serious reversal with the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the largest opposition organization in the country, left its ranks. The same thing occurred with the United Anti-Totalitarian Front (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas.

Lights After The Ashes / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Despite the mourning, some have dared to put up Christmas decorations. (14ymedio)
Despite the mourning, some have dared to put up Christmas decorations. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 December 2016 – Timidly, without much noise or fuss, Havanans are shaking off the national mourning decreed for Cuba, as of last Saturday, for the death of Fidel Castro. Despite cultural activities having been cancelled, the closed theaters and the bars without alcohol, the first Christmas decorations are beginning to be seen in some homes.

The owners of these houses adorned with lights and garlands risk being reprimanded by those closest to officialdom or by the police.

In a city where the authorities have severely reprimanded those who play loud music in their homes, or who plan any kind of festivities, to install Christmas decorations is true defiance, a gesture of irreverence more daring and forceful than an opposition slogan shouted in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Thousands of families across the capital city are waiting for the end of this period of seclusion imposed by the powers-that-be to prominently display their tree with a star and snow made out of cotton. These are the symbols of the new times, of the holidays that will inevitably come after the great funeral.

Fidel Castro’s 13 Most Notorious Failures / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

Fidel Castro promoting the 10 million ton of sugar harvest from 1969 to 1970. (Archive)
“Now it begins, The Great 10 Million [ton] Harvest.” Fidel Castro promoting the 10 million ton of sugar harvest from 1969 to 1970. (Archive)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 30 November 2016 – Cuba’s official press and, oddly, a good part of the international media, never stop repeating that Fidel Castro brought Cubans free education and healthcare for all. Cuba was already, however, one of the most developed countries on the continent before the Revolution, much more so even than some European countries such as Spain. Currently, the healthcare system is in a calamitous state since the USSR and Venezuela suspended their enormous subsidies for Havana, and education, despite being universal and free, is totally at the service of an ideology.

These are the 13 most notorious failures of the last 57 years, all attributable to the Maximum Leader. Continue reading “Fidel Castro’s 13 Most Notorious Failures / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

  1. One of Fidel Castro’s first promises in 1959 was to drain the Zapata Swamp, the largest wetland in the Caribbean islands, and to use it for planting rice. After investing substantial resources and mobilizing a large labor force, the project was abandoned. The failure of this idea of Castro’s was fortunate for the ecosystem, and today the area is included in the National System of Protected Areas and is a breeding ground with more than 10,000 rhombifer crocodiles, a species native to Cuba. A natural resource that would have been lost with the expansion of agricultural crops.
  2. In a public speech in the sixties, Castro said that in a short time there would not be a single marabou bush to be found anywhere on the island. Five decades later, the advance of this invasive plant has hampered agriculture to the point that his brother Raul re-issued the promise in a speech in July of 2007, during the annual commemoration ceremony for the assault on the Moncada Baracks, but the problem remains unresolved.
  3. In the early sixties Fidel Castro promised that milk production in Cuba would be so great that although the population was expected to triple, Cubans would not be able to consume all the milk that was going to be produced. Currently, milk is a rationed product distributed only to children under seven (and those with special medical needs), who receive a kilogram of powdered milk every ten days. In 2007, Raul Castro expressed a desire that all Cubans would be able to “drink a glass of milk” every morning.
  4. The October Crisis, also known as the Missile Crisis, represented a major defeat for the Maximum Leader, when the Soviets ignored him and made an agreement with the United States to withdraw their nuclear arms without considering his opinion. The Cuban people were barely aware of how close they came to perishing in a global cataclysm. In the streets of the island people chanted, “If they come, they stay,” and “Nikita, pansy, what is given isn’t taken back,” (in a rhyming version in the original Spanish), an allusion to the withdrawal of the warheads.
  5. Starting in late 1968 the island began preparing for a 10 million ton sugar harvest in 1970, but managed to produce only 8.5 million tons. The country turned its entire attention to the cane cutting, with the end of year holidays suspended to concentrate on harvesting and sugar production. The economy was left in ruins, fields dedicated to other crops were turned over to sugar, and the damages to the environment were never revealed.
  6. The Alamar neighborhood to the east of the capital, built through a system of microbrigades – people diverted from their normal workplaces to construction brigades – was exposed as the Cuban model of socialist architecture. In Alamar’s concrete blocks would live the “New Man,” an individual without ambitions who would know nothing of markets or exploitation. Today the Alamar apartments represent the lowest price point in the capital’s housing market. Not only for their architectural ugliness, but because this bedroom community lacks an adequate cultural, economic and commercial infrastructure.
  7. In 1967 it was proposed to create what would be called “the Havana cordon” around the capital, with the planting of coffee interspersed with pigeon peas, a miraculous bean to feed cattle. Thousands of Cubans were mobilized for the cultivation and the official press predicted a notable improvement in food supplies. The project was abandoned and its final fate never explained. [Ed. note: Among other problems, Havana does not have a climate conducive to coffee growing.]
  8. In the late seventies it was planned that the Isle of Youth would be Cuba’s first communist territory. Experiments were established to eliminate money and extend free goods and services. Numerous schools were built to welcome students on fellowships from 37 countries. Today most of these schools are abandoned, their hallways and classrooms overrun by vegetation.
  9. The genetically superior cow was one of the most persistent obsessions of the Comandante en Jefe. Crossing Holsteins with native cattle would create the F-1 and later F-2 animals that would guarantee the national cattle herd. The emblematic animal of this project was a single cow named White Udder, which set several records, producing more than 100 liters of milk a day. The year 2015 closed with slightly more than 4 million cows on the island, almost two million fewer than in 1958, while the population had doubled.