They Judged Fidel Castro Tomorrow / Reinaldo Escobar

Tomorrow, October 16, will mark 59 years since Fidel Castro was tried for Cause Number 37 related to the assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Some of his biographers say that at the trial he delivered his plea of self-defense known as “History Will Absolve Me,” others say that what he said was much shorter and less substantive and that it was later, in the serenity of the fecund prison that he wrote what his memory dictated. In the backyard of my house in Camaguey there should still be a copy of that first edition in a glass jar that my father — for fear of a search — buried in a site we could never find.

In that text, where his political platform is foreshadowed, we can appreciate the thought of a man of the center-left who mentions the theme of exploitation of the workers but does not announce the dictatorship of the proletariat, who denounces the excesses of the United Fruit Company but does not condemn imperialism by its name. Already in the decade of the 60s, conforming to the triumphalist spirit of the official media, the fulfillment of the Moncada program was proclaimed. Those days the author of the submission confessed that he was already, at the time, a Marxist-Leninist.

We were far from imagining that that anti-tyrannical young man would get his hands on, for a half century, absolute power over the fates of Cubans. No one should be judged twice for the same act, neither by the courts nor by history. On that occasion Fidel Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which he only served less than 20 months, because the bloody and ruthless dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, hearing the popular outcry, decreed an amnesty for political prisoners. It was an amnesty, not parole.

The history subsequently written not only absolved but congratulated the authors of the assault. I am speaking of the history books that my son studies in school and all the history books that have been allowed to be published in Cuba. With regards to what happened (let the reader choose the facts) no court had ever ruled.

Tomorrow will be another day.

15 October 2012