The same day that Cubans celebrated the 398th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Charity in the Bay of Nipe, Santiago de Cuba, news agencies revealed the latest confession of Fidel Castro: “The Cuban model does not work even for us”. Something that we who live in Cuba have known well, for a while.
A resident of Havana would say, “Damn, that guy just fell out of the tree” A housewife: ” It took me so long to realize.” A student: “Pal, he just discovered hot water” A peasant: “The leader fell from the saddle.” And an intellectual: “It took long enough to discover the Mediterranean.”
Although the people on the island are more concerned with daily survival than with paying attention to what Castro says or allows to be said, his statements left almost no one indifferent. “We’re fucked now that he’s coming out with these things, because if anyone is guilty of the fact that Cubans live so badly and so far behind, it is Fidel,” says Roberto indignantly, a retired 75-year-old.
“After this resurrection of the comandante, I cannot understand what is the goal of these public appearances. If he is doing this to stay in the limelight, or support to his brother Raul. Maybe he’s decided to become an independent analyst,” says Lourdes, 51, unemployed.
A few days ago, his mea culpa about the repression against Cuban homosexuals sparked a flurry of opinions among gays, transvestites and lesbians. “It seems that he wants to clear a bit of his soul before kicking the bucket,” Samuel, 35, a hairdresser who is proud to be queer says cheerfully.
In Cuba, due to the lack of internet, cable TV and foreign media that can reach the entire population, people often learn the news via shortwave stations and calls from family and friends living abroad.
Sara, a professor, 58, is annoyed by Castro’s too-late defense of the Jews that he just came out with. Her parents were Jewish and found a home in Cuba. “I can go live in Israel. But I want to die and be buried next to my family, in the Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa.”
One of the moments that she does not forget was when in September 2006, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran was in Havana, “Because he denies the Holocaust,” said Sara. Six years earlier, in 2000, Fidel Castro welcomed Khatami, the former Iranian president.
Because if there is anything that the Cuban government has boasted about, in particular after 1961 when Cuba joined the Non-Aligned Movement, it is its excellent relations with the Arab and Muslim world. Although Cuba does trade with Israeli businessmen under the table.
The latest apparition of the sainted comandante took place standing next to the American-Israeli journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg (born in New York, 1965). Goldberg is publishing, in dribs and drabs, the contents of three days of conversation in his blog, The Atlantic.
We await the next chapters. And confessions with a touch of regret (or of a guilty conscience), like his reference to his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Certainly, before retiring, the star reporter for CNN, Larry King, wants to interview Fidel Castro. Surely he’ll get that interview. We already know of his preference for U.S. reporters.
Returning to Jeffrey Goldberg. Will he take advantage of his stay in Cuba to intercede for Alan Gross, a Jewish American who allegedly traveled to the island to help the local Jewish community and has been jailed in Havana since December 2009?
Translated by ricote
October 8 2010