14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 July 2023 — I met Vladimiro Roca in mid-1963. At that time I was a student-soldier at the San Julián Base located in the westernmost part of Pinar del Río. Vladimiro was a MIG pilot who filled us with admiration with his stunts in the skies of Cuba. Then he was just “the son of Blas Roca” who shared his status with Carlos Jesús Menéndez, another pilot who was the son of the Jesús Menéndez, a union leader and politician in the sugar sector.
I heard from Vladimiro again in 1996 when they were trying to hold the Cuban Council to bring the opposition ranks to an agreement. A year later, together with Martha Beatriz Roque, René Gómez Manzano and Félix Bonne, he signed a document known as La Patria es de Todos [The Homeland Belongs to Everyone] that cost him five years in a maximum security prison. Until that moment I had never spoken to him.
In 2003, when I was working as Editor-in-Chief of the digital magazine Consenso, I interviewed him at his home. It was only from that moment on that I was able to discover his human quality, his knowledge of the national reality and his genuine willingness to work for the future of this country.
Later we ended up coinciding in different events in Cuba and abroad, where I was able to realize his strong character and his predisposition to defend his beliefs in a courageous and sometimes defiant way.
Vladimiro has been afflicted by the consequences of what he has experienced in 80 years of life. The penultimate news I had of him was his admission to a hospital with a pessimistic prognosis. Since then I kept hoping that he would manage to improve his state of health but I know that since then he was ready to say goodbye.
Neither he nor I believe very much in the legend that people go to heaven, but I see him there, having fun while doing daring pirouettes in the sky.
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