Leaders Die in the Land of Good and Evil / Ángel Santiesteban

Two political leaders have died only a few hours apart. But aside from the timing, they were also incompatible in their ways of seeing life, acting and delivering for their people. One represented Justice on earth and the other personified evil. The first, Václav Havel, was a born fighter, an intellectual and politician by nature, one of those who did not wait for more suffering to oppose one of the most ferocious dictatorships of mankind. For this he was persecuted, humiliated, put into prison and tortured. At the end he died from the after-effects caused by his daring to face a dictatorship that suffocated its people. But at least his people knew how to reward him, and today they mourn him, because he gave them the gift of a free and prosperous country. He was President for the time he needed; he served his term and then watched as his country took off and developed.

The other death, of the dictator Kim Jong Il, we can’t call “human loss,” because for that we would have to have feelings that justify that category. He was no more than a tyrant, the most perverse and egomaniacal that ever lived. After his death, he left behind only the suffering that all of his kind guarantee: punishment, famine and death.

Václav Havel was not content to see his country sovereign, but also fought for the freedom of other nations such as Cuba. In his personal geography the Cuban archipelago occupied a central place. His interest in the Cuban reality and conditions for the Cubans was constant, and from the seat of his country in Havana, we felt the support of his Government for free thought, individual rights and national independence. In us he saw himself in the years of dictatorship, in the current totalitarian state that we suffer. He felt at one with us Cubans.

Kim Jong Il did not stand out in life other than having been the prince of this new type of dynasty shared by North Korea and Cuba, the family legacy. His father, the dictator and mythomaniacal Kim Il Sun, guaranteed the delivery of power to him, which his grandson also received, then is great-grandson. No matter that his country lacks food and freedom; the only requisite is that which coincides with the rest of his autocrat lineage: to maintain power. And before the general disgust of the civilized world, the Cuban government decrees national mourning for the vile tyrant.

At some point, maybe very soon, we will erect the monument that Václav Havel deserves. We will lay flowers there for the rest of our lives, one generation after another. While in North Korea, they would tear down the statues of the Il family, given the opportunity.

We Cubans hope the Korean people will soon get their freedom, like we also want, and we wish them happiness. We offer the Czech people our sincere condolences, and we mourn their leader, a friend who understood and accompanied us at all times. And we will mourn him for more than 72 hours.  We will mourn for eternity.

Farewell, President Václav Havel.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translated by Regina Anavy

December 24 2011