From War Veteran to Peaceful Dissident / Luis Felipe Rojas

This interview was conducted by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on “Diario de Cuba” on October 21, 2011.

Eliecer Palma Pupo (Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas)

At a very young age, he left his home to combat Angolans who dissented from the regime which governed them. He returned as a hero, with three medals on his chest (Second Class Internationalist, for the Victory of Cuba-RPA, and Distinguished Service). Afterward, he was left without employment because he wrote a phrase which mocked Fidel Castro and his clique. That’s when the real war began for him. Marginalized from Cuban social life, he traversed various obstacles until he became a public dissident. And it was about these very subjects that Eliecer Palma Pupo wanted to chat about with “Diario de Cuba”.

Where were you stationed in Angola? What was your mission there, what did you do there?

I left to Angola in 1987, when I was 18 years old. They stationed me in a place called Matala, in Southern Angola. Later I was transferred to Lubango, in the province of Huila. I became chauffeur for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Radio-Technical Unit of Southern Angola. This soldier was later discharged here in Cuba because he was having an affair, something very common within the Cuban armed forces. I did not participate in combat, but I was in the forefront and witnessed the horrors of war. I lost a friend of mine, he was from my town. Like many Cubans who participated in that war, I went thinking I was going to do something just. In reality,  I went to get myself into something I shouldn’t have.

In 1996 they made me a militant of the Communist Party of Cuba. Years later, precisely on February 24th, which is a symbolic date for many Cubans, I was dismissed from my labor post and from that political organization. They sent me to the street, as if I was some sort of plague.

What were the causes of this dismissal? What happened after?

I worked in the “Urbano Noris” Agro-Industrial Complex of San German, Holguin. I wrote down a phrase on a piece of paper- it was a joke, a question directed to Fidel, asking him when we would eat shrimp and drink some beer. But the writing consisted of 14 letter C’s, which at the same time coincided with the Cuban rulers last name. That was all. The political police was in charge of all the rest. The First Lieutenant at the time, Frank Gonzalez, gave me a citation through the director of the sugar plant and they accused me of promoting ideological diversion, and therefore, they decided to expel me from my position as Chief of Security in the Sugar Production Complex.

The current Major, Rodolfo Cepena, was the one carrying out the post persecution. I was dismissed 8 times from different jobs. Wherever I turned to, they would tell me I was hostile toward the Revolution, and therefore could not administer resources from the State. In fact, in the “Heroes of Moncada” co-operative in 2006, the chief of the Municipal Attorney, Mrs. Maricelis Olivera, sided with State Security and ordered to violate the internal rules of the operation. I was once again left without a job because she pressured those who were in my favor, declaring that my position against the Revolution affected the collective mass of workers.

You were a member of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution (ACRC), what can you tell us about this organization?

The ACRC is an organization in which you become a member if you are a war veteran, and nothing is supposed to exclude you from that condition, but I was expelled from there. In that sense, I have been stripped of the possible “benefits” I could have been offered because of it- some sort of prebend like having them sell me food at different prices, or that they exempt me from some debts from using those electronic devices which have now been sold to all Cubans.

On the other hand, I was freed from having to pay 10 dollars for being associated to the group, from having to participate in meetings, and other compromises which these people are subjected to. Everyone knows that they do not pay the lest bit of attention to all these so-called “combatants”.

You joined the peaceful dissidence as an active member. Recently, you were seen taking part in the National March for the Freedom of Cuba in Baracoa. Are you aware of what you have done?

Yes, and I would do it a thousand times more. The authorities made me become a public dissident- because in Cuba, many people are against the government but they do not say it, or the political police does not find out. Now I have a debt to the peaceful social protest methods, of confronting the regime, and I do not plan on quitting, despite the many pressures I am being subjected to. I have already gone through arbitrary arrests and have had my house surrounded so that I do not participate in opposition activities. I have already taken a step forward and I have no plans of stepping back. I want to see a free Cuba, and I know what I am exposing myself, and my family, to.

There is a generalized notion that Cuba is changing. Are Cubans changing?

The government has not changed at all towards the Cuban people. Now, there is more repression than a few years ago. There is more poverty, and they are increasingly dismissing workers and leaving them out on the streets. I do not know where those changes some claim to see are, but I don’t see them at all.

In regards to Cubans, I do not think they are changing. The fact that, as they wait in line for a loaf of bread they criticize the government, does not constitute a change. Many people are afraid. Even the regime is on alert in regards to what could happen. Popular discontent, lack of credibility, and the increase of repression: all of this makes up the fact that something is moving, but there is no real change yet.

Editor’s note:  On Saturday, October 22nd, Luis Felipe Rojas published a Twitter message about the communist functionary Machado Ventura and his arrival to San German, Rojas’ hometown.  Because of Ventura’s visit, San German officials painted houses and covered holes on the street, while political police officials were on the move- surrounding and arresting some dissidents, including Eliecer Pupo, who at the time was in the home of Luis Felipe Rojas.  Here is the Tweet:


Police hav just taken dissident Eliecer Palma Pupo from my house for putting “Laura Pollan Lives” sign on his home

Translated by: Raul G.

23 October 2011