14ymedio, Havana, 23 September 2021 — The statues of Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara in the Parque Tabacalera, in Mexico City, woke up this Wednesday vandalized again. Two people threw white paint on the so-called ’Monument of the Encounter’, the work of the sculptor Oscar Ponzanelli, and placed between the two statues a flag of Mexico and a leaf on which they drew a hammer and sickle with the phrase: “Out AMLO” (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president). The perpetrators were arrested.
The effigies of Castro and Che, who met in the Mexican capital in 1955, have always been a target and even more so in recent weeks. Prior to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s visit to Mexico on September 16, opposition senator América Rangel shared on her social networks an image of the memorial, anonymously “intervened in,” accompanied by the phrase: “Thus, with blood and the labels of ASSASSINS, is how these two architects of the Cuban dictatorship, which has its people in misery and without freedom, should be represented.”
Days before, on September 11, a group of residents of the central Tabacalera neighborhood asked the Senate to intercede to demand that the head of government of the Mexican capital, Claudia Sheinbaum, remove the sculptures because they consider them an “insult” to the victims of the regime on the island, since they represent an ideology “contrary to democratic principles.”
The petition was also uploaded to the platform of the organization Change.org and already has 10,459 signatures of support. It refers to the “destruction” of the figures and they refer to Fidel Castro as a “dictator” and call Che Guevara a “murderer.” They point out that they are “perpetrators of crimes against humanity and have caused the systematic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.”
In addition, last July, legislators from the National Action Party called for a consultation to define the future of the ’Monument of the Encounter’. “The regime instituted in Cuba has caused thousands of deaths, repression, violation of freedoms, a gag law, extreme poverty, and has his people in misery,” Diego Garrido said to Radio Formula.
The disagreements have even led to a robbery attempt, such as the one carried out in October 2020. The authorities then decided to cover the piece with a metal structure.
The controversy has accompanied the monument from the moment it was installed, in 2017, according to the local press published on December 2, behind the National Museum of San Carlos, very close to where Castro and Che are supposed to have met, but they did it without the necessary permission. For this reason, they removed it and kept it in a warehouse, until its relocation to Parque Tabacalera, last year.
On a park bench, seated in a casual way, the Castro and Guevara sculpture mimics a way of presenting historical figures that has been used the Island for personalities such as John Lennon in a park in Havana’s El Vedado. These sets are also designed to allow a photo in which the passerby sits next to or in the middle of those represented.
In Cuba there is no sculpture of Fidel Castro, only some bas-reliefs in the main political squares of the country, an absence that many have pointed to as an indicator of Castro’s fear that his physical image would suffer some type of aggression as happened with the sculptures of Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin after the fall of the Baghdad regime and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Despite this care, on July 11, one of the most iconic images of the popular protests shows a group of people tearing up a poster with the face of Fidel Castro. Anger and mockery are mixed in a few short minutes of video in which the responsibility that Cubans place, regarding the current situation, on the shoulders of the person who ruled the country for almost six decades, is noted.
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