Free Fall / Iván García

"Welcome to Our Green Caiman"

The only thing need to fall is to be above. And although Renato knows this, he is still not used to the sacrifices of the real Cuba’s tough life. He was a heavyweight in an imports firm. A jet-set of the elite.

He wore the red insignia of the Communist Party and had a promising future ahead of him. On many an evening, he would be enjoying seafood, salad dressed with olive oil and fruits at some luxurious restaurant of Havana. And a good Spanish wine on the side, of course.

On his return back to his splendid house at Miramar, he would smoke a Cohíba cigar and have a cup of strong Brazilian black coffee. He would then go to bed, unstressed and relaxed, to have sex with his wife, an exuberant light-brown-skinned young woman of thirty-two.

As it happens in any marriage, they had plans. And Renato aimed high. He envisioned himself at 47 as director of a ministry and climbing up the ladder within the party hierarchy. His life was beautiful. He spoke several languages and traveled the world. He always had euros, dollars or Swiss francs in his wallet. He was not an extremist in his dealings with his workmates, nor did he judge severely the ideological weaknesses of his friends.

He never climbed higher by trampling over anybody else. He followed a very specific ethical system: to give priority to talent. Loyalty was essential, but it could always be second. He was not a shameless corrupt, either.

Yes: like any Cuban official, he knew some tricks and accepted bribes from capitalist impresarios under the table. But he always negotiated in ways that were favorable for the nation.

He was a professional and a Sybarite. He did not have lovers. He never participated in scandalous orgies. He did not even drink rum in excess. Like any other person with political ambitions, he had his aspirations. He dreamed with one day of becoming president.

He had logical and measured projects, in tune with the system in which he lived. He would even say to his closest friends that a socialism with a human face—one that was efficient and that did not support political repression—was indeed possible.

Renato did not see it coming. The day he was summoned to his supervisor’s office he never imagined that he would be subjected to a prickly telling-off and a litany of accusations due to political immaturity and lack of faith on the historic leaders of the Revolution.

A few weeks later he was thrown out of the party and his official car was taken from him. He no longer had a position of trust. No trips abroad, no business with refined capitalists.

He was stunned. He asked around, he begged, he made appointments with the high powers. He felt they were doing him injustice. His only crime was to believe in the reforms that General Raúl Castro was proposing. And to wish these were even deeper.

Months before this, Renato had participated in a meeting with the high cadres of the party. Everyone in the room was asked to, openly and with no regard to censure, say what their opinion was regarding the supposed economic changes that could be tried in the island in a near future.

He thought this was his chance. He had already undertaken meticulous research on a plethora of options to forward the economy. He expressed that the State needed to get rid of inefficient enterprises. He applauded the measure that resulted in the loss of a million jobs, and he thought the number should be higher, as to lessen the burden of the State. And he provided a series of counsels on how to engage the issue of the self-employment.

Our blunt official was betting, and so he said, on large reforms, market economy, small and medium-sized enterprises funded by Cuban-American capital, on the removal of the tax on the US dollar and on the gradual abolishment of the rationing system.

In his thesis, he did not mention anything about political changes, nor did he judge the work undertaken so far by the revolutionary leaders. After he finished his contribution to the meeting, he did not notice any sign of alarm at the big wigs’ table.

Some bureaucrats with power even came over to congratulate him. Twenty days later, when he was summoned to the supervisor’s office, he understood that his pragmatic project had become the cause of his disgrace.

The blow still hurts. Good-bye to those trips to Europe, to those shrimp dinners in the twilight. Only his wife and family are left. And the certainty that a better Socialism is still possible. Now he suspects that it won’t be feasible within the government of the Castro brothers.

The only thing needed to fall is to be above. When you touch ground, you learn a lesson. In the power structures of Cuba there are two capital sins: the ambition of power and thinking big. Renato had wished for both. And now he is paying for it.

Translated by T

February 4 2011