MY NAME IS WILLIAM SAROYAN / Orlando Luis Pardo Laza

Down K Street

My father had died, the good Armenak (1918-1998).

They laid him out at the funeral home at Calzada and K Street, not far from the municipal maternity hospital: the América Arias hospital.

Chapel K: it was my mother who chose the letter. It reminded her of her homeland, Armenia, which in native Armenian is actually spelled Armenika. It reminded her of my own father, the recently turned-into-cadaver Armenak. It reminded her of herself; a sudden widow named Takuji. In both cases, Saroyan.

My parents were cousins before being lovers. The Saroyan family excommunicated them: they did not tolerate such liberties within their clan. But they insisted.

Later, it was the occupied Armenika who excommunicated them: they didn’t tolerate liberties either within their false frontiers imposed by the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians. They insisted.

They crossed the continent and the ocean in one thousand and two layovers, until their ship wrecked by chance in another little homeland called Havana, bringing along with them Armenika as a stowaway, folded one thousand and two times along with the worthless currency in their pockets.

They insisted. But this time death at last excommunicated these two cousin-lovers from their so insistent passion for freedom.

At the most luxurious and lonely funeral home in Vedado, Havana, Cuba, my mother Takuji warned me:

Do not cry for your father, the good Armenak – she said. Cry for me, for not knowing how to die with him. Cry for you, for the shame that your parents have brought upon you; first, without a homeland, and now, without a family.

My mother Takuji pronounced it all in Armenian smooth and fragile, like her, a language that could not be any more dead even if no one in the world remembered it. It is the language of forgetfulness and of frustration as home: the same in the homeland as in the family, we no longer knew anything of our fate, uprooted with a country but without a destiny. Continue reading

Free Enterprise Without Freedom / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

FREE ENTERPRISE WITHOUT FREEDOM

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

“Invest in Castro, it does not matter: Castroism will condemn you. . .”

Cuban exile mogul, Alfonso Fanjul, has traveled to Cuba several times between 2012 and 2013.  Recently, he has declared that there’s a “soft spot in his heart” and that he has an “open mind” towards the prospect of investing his fortune in the Island. Given the “right circumstances”, and “legal grounds”, and on the basis of an “appropriate framework.”

That’s only one example, of course, but it is far from being the only one among millionaires in the Cuban exile. And it wasn’t long before this caused a media outrage, including at the highest levels of American politics. Republican Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, said he was “surprised and disappointed” with Fanjul’s change in perspectives, a person who for decades supported many initiatives that were forthrightly anti-Castro.

The key question at the current historical juncture would be the following: Do human rights violations in Cuba even remotely concern the economic interests (whether foreigners or Cuban exiles) that loom over the island?  First of all, Havana’s government doesn’t even allow Cubans living on the island to invest or associate peacefully in their own country. According to foreign interests, it seems we don’t even deserve it. We’ve already waited half of century a despotism, we might as well wait out one hundred years of impunity.

European politicians take advantage of the circumstance to start asking for the same. Let’s give our support to Castro, and let Castro deal with the Cubans.

And just like that, they aim to place themselves on the best possible terms with the dictatorship, with the idea of eventually “democratizing” it through gradual blows of solvency.  They bet on the miserliness of the Chinese model based upon Raúl Castro’s stagnant reforms, supposedly with the idea of not upsetting the Moribunds-in-Chief, and avoiding radical tendencies that could end up turning the Island into a Caribbean North Korea.  Ha!

 

But this is a false argument, the demagoguery of the Castro lobby complicated with donations to the presidential campaign every four years. In practice, Cuba has already shown the voracity of the markets of Beijing, as well as the criminal despotism of Pyongyang. Perhaps through this justification these tycoons expiate their totalitarian guilt of ending up talking about profits with former Castro supporters and former Castro enemies, indistinguishable from each other in the face of post-Castroism.

What’s surprising is that the international entrepreneurs insist on not acknowledging that  in Cuba their investments will be more than insecure. Unless they’re all moles of State Security since the beginning of the Revolution, or they had been lured/blackmailed by it (like the Catholic Cardinal). In fact, more than a few investors have ended up being accused of corruption and had all their assets confiscated. In the best case, they were deported to their country of origin without indemnity rights. In the worst, they’re still in prison (without trial), or dead just like the mafia that was left behind by the thug Max Marambio in his stampede-like get-away.

Amassing wealth through the humiliation of others is a feudal formula. Above and beyond the rule of law, decency is the source of all legitimacy.

John Stuart Mill’s phrase is well-known: “One’s own freedom ends where the freedom of the others begin”. In the case of the foreign business dealings with the Castro regime, that quote can very well be re-inscribed as followed: “One’s own freedom ends right where the freedom of others is ended.”

 Translated by W. Cosme

10 February 2014