14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 March 2017 — The two personalities who represent the polar opposites of the so-called process of updating the Cuban model have disappeared. We have seen neither hide nor hair of the “captain” of economic reforms, Marino Murillo, since October of last year, and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, considered the braking mechanism for any measure that looks like a change, has not appeared in the official media since 27 February.
Murillo did not appear in the images that filled the media during the nine days of the funeral and mourning period of former President Fidel Castro. He was not seen in the last session of the parliament fulfilling his usual role of asking for accountability on the implementation of the Party’s Guidelines. He was not on the viewing platform saluting the troops who marched in the military parade of 2 January, nor at any other significant event of the ruling party during the current year.
On the other hand, rare is the day when the second secretary of the Communist Party, Machado Ventura, does not appear visiting a chicken farm, sausage factory or a sugar mill, moments that he uses to hammer home his slogans of discipline andcontrol, demands that put him in the headlines almost daily in the official press. He is the visible face that exhorts the peasants to produce food and the workers to comply with savings measures.
Absences attract attention as well as presences. What is not said can be as revealing as what is stated
However, the most significant sign that unveils the wide range of suspicions about the whereabouts of this hardliner has been that when Raul Castro returned from his brief trip to Venezuela, the so-often repeated scene of Machado Ventura receiving him at the bottom the airplane stairs was missing. Perhaps this is the first time that images of the general president’s return to the country were not released and that the press didn’t mention who welcomed him.
The last meeting of the Council of Ministers, held on 28 February, was the first of Raul Castro’s presidential term that was not broadcast live on television, nor were photos published in the Party newspaper Granma. Both Murillo and Machado Ventura should have been visible as members of the group of highest ranking decision makers in the country.
Instead, in the official information about the meeting there was a reference to Leonardo Andolla Valdea, deputy chief of the Permanent Commission for the Implementation and Development of the Party Guidelines. He was in charge of saying, on this occasion, what would have normally been said by Murillo, also known as the “czar of the economic reforms.”
It is not serious to spread rumors, much less to invent them. In journalism only the facts must be counted, showing evidence and citing sources. However, under the opaque veil of secrecy in which the most important political and economic events unfold in Cuba, absences attract attention as much as presences. What is not said can be as revealing as what is stated.