Monthly Archives: March 2011

From Glory to Villainy

The first time I was close to Agustin Bejarano it was in 2004, during a couple of hours of the night literary circle,and I had never seen his work. His name began to sound familiar, as a well-treated artist, but his surprising and meteoric rise that would begin a little latter was still unknown, for this man considered one of the untouchables of Cuban painting today.

My first impression of Bejarano, during that meeting at the home of the writer Eduardo Heras León, was inconsequential: jovial, shrewd, a good conversationalist, these are roughly the adjectives that would have described him at the time.

The second meeting with him, just a year ago in my native Bayamo, would have a slight difference: Agustín Bejarano came to town as the guest of honor of an event about art, preceded by his status, and then I unreservedly included myself among those who regarded him as a marvel of contemporary art from Cuba.

His works, bold and refreshing in the pictorial language of the island, seemed to me to have an irresistible authenticity.

Agustín Bejarano in his appearance before the Court.

So now that this Camagueyan appears in the Miami news without his admirable aura, his status shredded, wearing the orange uniform and a face with the typical expression of the common prisoner, I put the two concepts together and tell myself, “The Agustín Bejarano whose works fascinated from the very first time, and the one who is now behind bars in the Pre Trial Detention Center, facing charges of sexual abuse of a minor, are the same person.”

A sad way to make himself known to the American public: today, even those who knew nothing of his contributions in prints, or his highly prized paintings in the international market, know him from the news of the Cuban pedophile who came, invited by the Pan American Art Projects, and molested a five-year-old boy–Good God–the son of his friends in their own house.

Formally, this is the accusation against Agustín Bejarano. Carl Zogby, a spokesman for police in Hialeah and in charge of the arrest, said in essence: “The defendant confessed to the crime, is very sorry and claims he felt an inexplicable weakness that led him to commit this act.”

According to the official version, the boy told his parents five days after the alleged incident: the distinguished visitor and friend of the couple had placed his erect penis between his little hands, and kissed him on the mouth when the adults were not present.

Terrible. Maddening. I think in the Cuban cultural universe, a story as amazing as this one had never featured, starring one of those who, when they appeared in news, it was always to inspire admiration. Never disdain.

It’s worthwhile to steal away a hurried analysis of the incident, on some points in particular.

First, the conspiracy theory.

Agustín Bejarano, after being arrested by police in Hialeah

After a telephone conversation I had yesterday with another talented artist on the island, I knew one of the theories circulating about this case in Cuba: Could it be a Machiavellian trick, or a manipulated exaggeration  to discredit Bejarano, to end his career, or to get a lot of money out of him?

Some, pragmatic, merchants of the art world point in Miami. Others, detectives, look toward bad politicians.

I personally do not see the point of either motive, but still, I confess: I would love to hear that it is a mistake, a deplorable stunt, and if that were the case, I would defend the artist with the same vehemence with which I will applaud his hard sentence if he is indeed guilty.

Nor do I understand how they could make money, the supposed art ruffians, with Bejarano behind bars for 20 years or for life (it could be either if he is convicted), nor do I understand what political interest could raise a man who, unlike actors or musicians, has no media presence outside his guild, and does not represent any discord or discomfort for the establishment of this country.

Worse, the argument that would weigh against him, most of all, is the powerful story of a boy of five. Why? Well because psychologists and those in charge of questioning the little boy say, without exception, that  is almost impossible to invent a story like this at that age, when even the concept of lying is not part of consciousness. In conclusion, the experts say, five-year-old children never lie. Much less with such complexity.

The second vital aspect in this dramatic case, is to clear the political implications that may arise from it, and that could affect the damaged bilateral relations in the field of cultural exchange.

If we take into account the existing malaise in the Cuban exile community, which claims, with justice, that this is euphemistic exchange is only in one direction, and if we take into account also the incidents of Silvio Rodríguez advocating in New York for the Five Heroes or Spies (the reader can click on the nickname he prefers: interactive reading); the disastrous concert of “Gente de Zona” in Las Vegas, with brawl included; and now with a Cuban artist accused of committing such a heinous crime, I suspect it could revive the discontent among some sectors, and could become dangerous with little reason.

As this case has only just started, and how much–I am sure–we’ll find out in the coming days as to the veracity of these disturbing allegations, to establish an accurate view about the morals of this painter, yesterday glory, today villain, is unwise and unnecessary.

But about something I have no doubt: from now on we will attend the Olympic ascent of an already memorable career, if Agustín Bejarano emerges unscathed from this unforgettable case with the reputation that would earn him a name in the media; or, terrible reality: we will know the tragic end of a Cuban artist who lost in the United States not only his vast career, but his status as human being deserving of the most elementary respect.

March 31 2011

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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Ernesto Morales Licea



Sometimes I think it could be a dream. A bad dream, of those who start with innocence, stealth, even taking certain perverse nuances and making us wake up in the middle of the night, the sweat sticking our skin to the sheets. And then, a taciturn happiness that leaves us breathless, thinking, between horror and gasps, “It’s just a nightmare. My God. Nothing more than a nightmare.”

Sometimes I think we are all dreaming. All this couldn’t be happening to us. We don’t deserve it. No people can be hypnotized without end. Spells are fragile, they break down. And so I believe: sometime people will wake up, look around, feel a common shame, a common happiness, for having been in such an undignified sleep.

And they forget, also by common agreements, that while this evil dream lasted they were harming others:  brothers in the Fatherland and of blood; brothers in faith, language, race. They forget, to relieve their consciences, that they once called out “To the wall!” as forgiveness is claimed, they demanded death with the music of their hands, their rhyming choruses, their laughing lips.

They forget that they bit like the worst cannibals: not those who go out to eat the flesh of other tribes, but those who stuff their guts with the flesh of their own; who once made an effort to curse and offend, to beat and exclude. To send a million of our brothers to the other side of the sea, condemning them to exile where many had to die with their hearts awash in grudges, never healed nostalgia, longing without peace.

After pulling off the sheets, at last, the country of sleepwalkers is about to wake up trying out a smile badly taken as a universal apology: the apology of the innocent Catholics on remembering the Inquisition; the apology from the Germans when their Aryan and racist nightmare finally came to an end.

One of those apologies that carried within itself the lack of decorum of many men over many years. Including those who don’t believe the apology to be necessary. Those who don’t understand the meaning of the word love: truth, sublime, the most sung and told: the love that doesn’t conceive of good for some and evil for so many others. Those who do not understand the meaning of freedom: for everyone, for those we love whom we don’t know we love, and without which some would end up bleeding to death in agony like some character of Borges, who begs his children’s forgiveness to dying so slowly.

In the name of those who know not of decorum nor spiritual superiority, the people also apologize

In the name of those who die perverted by hatred, thinking they did much good: that it was necessary to massacre the enemies of the State (may God not let you rest in peace, General Pinochet), that it was necessary to be done with the frauds (may you rot behind bars, Mark David Chapman), and who divide a dwarf country, rendering the bitterness of a dwarf country–eleven million natives: a provincial palenque–to segregate them in the name of an chimeric ideology, was the supreme duty to achieve immortality.

God does not love you, Comandante. I pity your senility and your inevitable mortality. Poor dried-up grape.

And after the pathetic dream, the end of this long night, so foul, so diluted in amnesia; this night with so many fragmented families, so many children without parents, so many Virgilios with fear and Cabreras without peace, so much hopelessly lost love, so many drowned seasoning the sea with their bodies… After this illusion of dollars and sharks, a return to real life.

The real life of a people segmented between worms and Party members, prostitutes and association members, communists and communitarians, officials and anarchists, bloggers and State security, beginning to gain strength, to lose the weakness of arrogance, the debility of the cruel, and to stroking their own heads like a kid afraid of a scolding: “It was just a prank, it won’t happen again, please.”

Sometimes I think I am the one who is dreaming. It could be. But I’m not the only one. And within me, in my brain full of real surrealism, naive and childish happiness, my floating Island is about to open its eyes after half a century’s slumber. And I want to be wide awake, like an inveterate insomniac, so that nobody has to tell me about it.

March 29 2011


Among Dissidents (II. Final)

EML: Mr. Lesnik, we’ve already talked about the Cuban opposition, where does your aversion to these political activists come from? Why can’t you, a man so markedly political, not accept the right of these people to belong to parties that oppose the only official Party?

ML: It stems from, among other things, that for me the Cuban opposition has chosen the easiest path: receiving a check from the U.S. government, for which, with good reason, the Cuban government calls them mercenaries, and accuses them of being a fabrication.

I told you before that I can’t believe in the political militancy of fabricated leaders.

Tell me this, sincerely: Do you really believe that Yoani Sanchez is one of the 100 most influential people in the world?

EML: At the time she was included in that list, probably not. Now, yes.

ML: But not even Fidel Castro is one of the 100 people, boy!

EML: No, but for me it’s more than obvious that for a long time now Fidel Castro has ceased to be influential in the world. We’re not talking about fame, about historic importance. We’re talking about influence. And to say that Yoani is not one of the most influential people in the world today, is to ignore reality.

What this is about, Mr. Lesnick, is that the government has designed a tremendously effective machinery to that there is no legal way to exercise opposition.

Let me ask you: Does there exist any way of being an open opponent in Cuba, and being respected as one, not being denigrated by the communication media (without any right to respond), not being imprisoned or excluded from society. Does there exist even one way?

ML: I don’t know how many receive money or don’t receive it, how much more honorable some are than others. But what I do know is that those who present themselves as leaders of the opposition are probably financed by this government, And of the 75 who were put in prison in 2003 it was shown at their trials that they received money from the United States government.

I don’t want to make a categorical statement about all of them, but it’s true that nearly all are of this type. And if the Cuban people don’t respect them it’s because they don’t deserve resepct, because there are things that many of them don’t support about American policy against Cuban and they don’t dare say it publicly.

For example: Don’t you think there are many of them who don’t approve of the embargo? Don’t you think there are many who don’t support it and still they remain silent?

EML: Mr. Lesnik, there is a very well-known letter of May 2010, that has come to be called “Letter of the 74,” where a group of opponents and well-known members of civil society, among them Elizardo Sanche, Dagoberto Valdes, Guillermo Farinas, and Yoani Sanchez herself, wrote to the American Congress to suspend the embargo.

ML: Of course, but Obama’s is a different government. Please…

EML: You told me no one had done it and I am responding.

But let me emphasize: Why don’t you or I know even a single Cuban opponent whom the government respects, whom they don’t demonize on TV programs, and simply take as an opponent with the right to disagree? Doesn’t common sense say something’s not right there?

ML: Look, to me the History that I have learned since 1959, is that the Americans tried to use the Cuban opposition and paid them. I am a witness to how, from the beginning, the Americans put the government opposition there to control it.

And this has been the same policy up to today: they have corrupted the Cuban opposition to the point where the people don’t believe in it. The result is that today we have a Cuban government with an enemy so large, that it allows the Island’s government to accuse everyone in opposition of being traitors.

What I want to say is that this a product of American policies. Is the United States hadn’t intervened in Cuba from the year 1961, and if it hadn’t declared Cuba “the enemy,” and hadn’t used all its resources to bring down the government, there would have been no reason nor pretext to take measures against people who honestly cold have been within their rights to disagree.

For example, can you think of a civil society sector that historically confronted communism more than the Catholic church? And when the Pope met with Fidel Castro the Vatican declared peace in Cuba?

Is it true or is it a lie that from then on Catholics had freedoms that had never been enjoyed under a communist government?

EML: Provided they do not take any positions of disapproval against what happens in Cuba, Lesnik. Provided they remain silent about what they see around them. When Catholics take positions as dissenting Cubans, not even an institution as powerful as the Church can save them. And if you don’t believe me, look at what the police did to Father Jose Conrado in Santiago de Cuba in December of 2007, when they dared to enter his parish and use violence there during a mass in support of political prisoners.

ML: But Conrado is a provocateur… I know Conrado from before you were born, and what he’s looking for is a show, to be the enfant terrible of the Catholic Church in Cuba.

EML: I don’t agree with you at all. Are all the Cuban priests who maintain positions confronting officialdom provocateurs? Is Archbishop Pedro Meurice also a provocateur for reading that fantastic letter of welcome to the Pope in Santiago, where he denounced the suffering of many Cubans?

ML: No, but those who reprimand them are not the government, it’s the Vatican. Whoever has sanctioned them I suppose it to be the Vatican, for saying what they shouldn’t according to the Institution…

EML: I don’t know what sanction you’re referring to. None of them have mentioned suffering any sanction from the Vatican, Mr. Lesnik. Father Conrado, who right now is visiting the United States, exercises his profession currently in the parish of Santa Teresita, and Monsignor Meurice is retired due to his advanced age and lives in El Cobre.

ML: Fine, but what I wanted to tell you on theme of the Church is that the Cuban government has smoked the peace pipe with the Church, because they are no longer conspiring as they did before. And because of this the Catholics have their full freedoms on the Island.

Now, in the case of the United States, they have not made peace with Cuba and what’s more, returning to the dissidents, in the measures that the government of the Island sees that some of its nationals adopt positions that could be used by the American government to maintain its war with Cuba, they can’t have more freedoms for them.

Although you don’t know it, you were an agent of American policy there.

EML: You’re wrong in that assessment. I have always exercised, and I continue to exercise, my irrefutable freedom of expression. The problem is that the government of my country, whether this bothers it or not, whether they believe that it coincides or not with American positions. I leave that up to them. What I do, I dictate my thoughts to myself.

And look, the cynicism of the authorities in my cities got to the point where, as I said in a post, the official who “looked after me” for State Security came to my house expressly to tell me, “We are the ones who issue the Exit Permit. We know you have a Visa for the United States. If you stop writing, there won’t be any obstacles, if you don’t, look out for the consequences.”

Does this seem to you to be the fault of the American government? Do you believe that this is a valid way to fight American policies?

ML: OK, and did you stop writing?

EML: Not only did I not stop writing, but I responded to them in my blog itself.

ML: But they let you leave!  So where’s the problem?

EML: What is horrible is that they have the power to decide, Mr. Lesnik. What is horrible is that they have the mechanism in hand, the mechanism to decide for the lives of others. Whether they use it or not.

This reminds me of the film “Schindler’s List” when Schindler convinces the cold-blooded Amon Goeth that real power is not in ordering the death of someone, but in pardoning them. And I will tell you this: the leaders who possess the power to decide about the lives of people at will, on a whim, at their convenience, have only one name: they are called dictators, Mr. Lesnik.

ML: Look, I’m not going to defend the things that you and I both consider negatives. But I wonder what is the alternative given this fact: Do we try to change these mistakes through dialog, and bit by bit manage to build a humanist society that we all support? Or do we try to destroy this process that is so valuable in many other aspects?

For me, I have no doubt about the answer.

Let me ask you something, for example: Do you or do you know believe the Cuban government with respect to the case of Zapata?

EML: Naturally, no. Remember that this was one of the reasons, supposedly, that I was left without a job in Cuba.

And now that we touch on the theme, of course, you said in the article To live on dreams is to die disillusioned, also published in Cubadebate, “A prisoner named Zapata, according to the Island’s government a common criminal, and to the anti-Castro opposition a true political dissident.”

I regret to tell you that you are wrong. Not only the Cuban opposition declared him a dissident. Also in 2003 one of the official “Bibles,” the book “The Dissidents” by Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Baez, included Zapata among the political opponents, with photos and precise dates. You can look it up. What happened is that latter it was convenient to say that no, he never was, he was just a common criminal…

ML: Did I say in this article you cite that Zapata was a criminal?

EML: No, but I dare say that you believe it. Correct me.

ML: Yes, I think he was, but I don’t say it because I don’t have proof. But everything seems to indicate to me that he was. And you, doesn’t it seem to you that he was involved in those common criminal acts that he’s accused of by the Cuban government?

EML: Do you know why I don’t believe it? For two reasons: 1: Because I said a bit ago that the government has never recognized a single opponent as worthy of respect: they always demonize them morally, and 2: Because I myself, in my own flesh, suffered the most degrading defamation in the world being accused of being a pimp, and that I sold the bodies of several women. You didn’t know that?

ML: No, until now, no.

EML: I humbly suggest you take a turn through my blog and read my text there about it. I’d like you to see what State Security does to “protect itself from American policies.”

I really appreciate your taking the time for this dialog, Max Lesnik. Although we both know there were too many issues on the table to cover everything in just two hours.

ML: And I say the same to you. Hopefully some day you will understand that in the end, where I have come to in my thinking, Ernesto, is that in order for us to see changes in Cuban policy, we have to fight for changes in American policy. If not, the war is lost for people like me, who support a Cuban society that is more just and perfect than what exists today.

March 22 2011


Among Dissidents: My Interview with Max Lesnik (I)

I saw him before me, for the first time, in a television studio in Miami. He had been invited to debate an incident in which he had been a protagonist: A billboard, in an anti-Castro city par excellence, that for twenty-four hours spoke out on behalf of the five Cuban members of the “Wasp Network” who are considered heroes in Cuba and spies in Miami. Shortly after being installed on a central avenue, the billboard of discord would be removed in the face of protests from radical groups.

The “Marti Alliance,” an organization headed by Max Lesnik, had paid for the placement of this sign.

I believe this aroused my curiosity, my particular interest, in interviewing one of the most controversial and least-liked public figures in south Florida. For many, he is the leader of pro-Fidel and pro-Communist movements within the exile community, regardless of how much he insists that he doesn’t defend a doctrine based on Communism.

Our meeting took place without protocols or restraints on his part: an email asking for an interview, another responding affirmatively. After, the address of the radio station where this man, a militant of the old Cuban Orthodox Party, dedicated a part of his life to the media.

Next to this small radio station, its walls decorated with images of Martí and Chibás, Antonio Guiteras, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, a small Chinese restaurant served as the stage for a two-hour interview, after the lunch to which Max Lesnik treated me.

How can I introduce this man, bound by ties of friendship to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, defending some of the most criticized positions of the Island’s government. As a young journalist, a recent arrival to this city, opposed to the regime that runs my country, but possessing a democratic vocation that allows me to hear the arguments of everyone who wants to share them with me.

Seen very clearly, Max Lesnik is nothing more than a dissident in Miami. And complex exhilarating characters, those who generate reactions — for and against — due to their unfettered advocacy of their positions, will never cease to interest me.

I reproduce below the first piece of this lengthy interview.

Ernesto Morales Licea: In the documentary “The Man of the Two Havanas,” filmed by your daughter, I remember you telling a reporter in a public protest, “Do not divide the Cuban family.” This was in relation to the limitations imposed by the Bush administration of three years between each visit to the Island. My first question is: in your view, who has divided the Cuban family more? The American government or the government of Cuba itself?

Max Lesnik: The Cuban family has been divided over time for different reasons. Both the Cuban and the United States governments have responsibility for this. But the seriousness of this is that when Cubans began to communicate again and there was a distension between the parties involved in a conflict, then the American government, pandering to the extreme right in Miami, took measures affecting not the Cuban government, but the Cuban people and the exiles who live here.

And I think Cuba does have responsibility with regards to the division of families, but two wrongs don’t make a right, and therefore the responsibility of the American government is totally immoral: when the Castro Revolution took measures that led to an exodus, they did it for reasons of principles that, right or wrong, had a self-justification.

But when the government here took measures to divide families they didn’t do it for honest reasons or ideological beliefs: they did it for electoral interests.

EML: But for many years the United States government didn’t touch Cuban-Americans traveling to the Island because it was the Cuban government who wouldn’t let them enter. It has been a trip of no return. In fact the Cubans who were left on the Island had to hide their links with the exiles, lest they’d face consequences. Does that strike you as more understandable and legitimate than Bush’s decision, which on the other hand I don’t share? It is more reasonable?

ML: No, no it’s not, but we have to recognize that this practice ended long ago. And in politics, like in daily life, the past must be understood and studied, because always when we work towards a better future we must start from a base of what it is, not what it was. And today Cubans on the Island do not suffer reprisals for having family abroad, nor do they have to hide them.

In the same way I recognize that the position taken by the current Obama administration is positive: eliminating all the obstacles established by Bush for traveling to Cuba, and if there are huge things in Cuba widely criticized like the so-called “white card,” then I believe it should be eliminated.

But I want to clarify that the Permission to Leave is not an invention of the current government; in the 1950s it was already a requirement to go to the Foreign Ministry and request a permit…

EML: Yes, but you will agree with me that we are talking about the Batista dictatorship, and supposedly this Revolution was to do away with all the bad practices. Or was it to continue them?

ML: That’s correct, I agree. But I just want to reaffirm that it is not a new procedure. And to be honest I will tell you: it was not widely applied at that time. It was in selective cases, with people of great interest to the government.

Anyway, if there are restrictive measures in Cuba for leaving the country, I am against them, and I said it there: I am opposed to limiting the right of people to leave the country.

EML: Call things by their name, Mr. Lesnik, these are not simply restrictive measures, These are violations of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where it says in writing that “every individual has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their own country.”

Let me ask you: What if you suddenly left Miami, which is not where you were born but it is the city where you have lived most of your life, went to Cuba and made statements contrary to U.S. policy, and suddenly the American government prevented your from returning to your house in Miami?

ML: It would be very regrettable.

EML: We’re in agreement. So tell me then, what do you say to people who are not terrorists, drug smugglers, who have not tried to assassinate any leader, nor to introduce any plague, who are not fugitives from justice, and whom the Cuban government prevents from entering the Island for life only because of their opposing views?

ML: Well, if I were the Cuban government I would let them enter.  Absolutely. But I am not the Cuban government.

That country should let anyone who wants to leave, leave, and anyone who wants to return, return. Of course with the limitations you yourself have clarified: there are people who have been to Cuba and committed crimes and some are caught and some are not.

But you can’t fail to understand that freedom from the point of view of governments is always in direct relation to State security.

What does this mean? Well, when a State, for internal political reasons, feels insecure about the harassment of an enemy, it is clearly more restrictive in terms of public freedoms than when it feels solidly established.

In the United States a lot of people can say, “How much freedom!” But the American State is a secure State. But during McCarthyism when they imagined some Americans were sympathetic to the left, they were persecuted and imprisoned. Simply because the State wasn’t secure that it was in control of the situation.

EML: The problem, for me, is that Cuba has manipulated the issue of security at its convenience. It’s unacceptable that citizens, among whom I include myself, who never committed any crime nor have any links with violent organizations, cannot enter their own country because those who have seized it take reprisals against them.

ML: Have you applied for a visa to enter Cuba and been refused, or are you pre-judging?

EML: No, so far I haven’t applied, I’ve been in this country three months. But I’m reasoning based on well-known experience, Mr. Lesnik.

ML: Well, then let’s wait until you try it before judging, wouldn’t you agree? To me, you’re biased. I’m asking if you know any of these honorable people who are not allowed to enter Cuba just because they think differently about Cuban politics.

EML: I don’t have enough time in this interview to mention names, Mr. Lesnik. From ordinary people I’ve talked with here in Miami, to others who have become known precisely because of this, as in the case of Fernando Delgado Duran, a Cuban living in Austria, who recently staged a brief hunger strike to call attention to his case, that they will not allow him to visit his family. I’m sure that in Miami we could collect hundreds of thousands of similar testimonies, which I’m surprised you don’t know.

So I think that if your attitude is honest, you should not only defend some legitimate rights that the government of the island has on behalf of its sovereignty, but also defend the respect for universal rights which are continually violated.

ML: But look, what I do know is that many would be allowed to enter Cuba and they are the ones who don’t want to, who proclaim that they do not want to go to Cuba as long as this regime is in force.

EML: In that case, it is their right. What is impossible to explain, for example, is why writer Amir Valle, today in Berlin, has written hundreds of letters to the authorities of the island demanding an explanation of why he has been denied his visa, even though his children are there, and after he reached a dead-end Valle put pressure on by saying that if they did not let him take his children or go to Cuba, he would mobilize the international left in a “reverse Elián” case. And only then he was allowed to take his children, but not to enter the country.

ML: Well he is saving himself from being called a traitor by extremist sectors here (in Miami) thanks to all that trouble. Because the other problem is that when you are not allowed to enter Cuba you complain that there is a dictatorship, but when the government of Cuba lets you in you are called a traitor here.

EML: That is quite a pickle, at least for me. Being branded a traitor by people who don’t concern me the least.

ML: Over there it’s wrong that you are not allowed out or in, and here they do the same but in reverse, calling people traitors if they travel to Cuba.

EML: But there is no comparison between a laughable insult and a restriction to travel to your own country Mr. Lesnik.

ML: I am not saying it is the same thing, but Miami’s extremist community slanders and denigrates anyone who doesn’t follow the official stance of stigmatizing Cuba and saying that everything coming from the island is evil.

EML: But the evidence that this extremist community has no impact on anything is yourself. If this community had any control over things, any determination over anything, and any power other than uttering pointless insults, you wouldn’t be allowed to return to Miami when you appear on Cuban television praising the Cuban Revolution. This is the immense difference: the small group of extremists, as you call them, determines nothing. The Cuban government determines everything.

ML: Well, but if they have a way of controlling things they obviously wouldn’t let me back in. Because the facts are there: the Cuban community in the south of Florida, for electoral reason, pressures and conditions everything that has anything to do with Cuba.

Then the policies of exile don’t fully translate to the America policies towards Cuba, but that is the intention. I don’t tire of saying that to reach an ideal society it is easier to start from where Cuba is today than to change everything and go back to yesterday’s Cuba with all the ingredients that those in Miami would prefer.

That’s how I see it, as I declare myself a democratic socialist and averse to any form of dictatorship.

EML: I deduce from your words that you don’t consider the current Cuban government a dictatorship.

ML: In my view there is a government that maintains an evolutionary system capable of changing in any way if the Cubans desired to do so. But not because of outside pressures.

In that case, if Cubans wished, Cuba could be transformed; what will never be transformed is Cuban exile. Not even with your arrival here in Miami. Because people come from Cuba with a different flare and with a critical position against everything they’ve left behind such as yours; but, without intentions to make improvements of the Cuban society through terrorist acts or military action, they are left with not but one choice: to fold and adopt that position, contrary to their initial ideals, or they suffer the consequences of being considered communist or similar.

I believe, for example, that there are people in Cuba that also fold. People within the government who see with critical eyes many of the things happening around them and say nothing. Rather they stay the course in order to survive.

And there are some here who do the same; who fold to the interest of irrational and intolerant monsters who are in control of power.

Do you want a better example than what happen to the billboard we put up on a street in Miami asking for the release of the Five? I would have rather had it stay, to demonstrate that we do have democracy here. But no. What they accomplished was to demonstrate that there is more intolerance here than there is in Cuba, because there at least you can argue that the State has enemies that threaten its stability.

EML: I am glad to hear you speak about tolerance. In 1968 you started the magazine “Replica” here in Miami, which in many ways dissents with the United States policies. It is well-known that there were attempts to shut it down, either via violent ways as well as political campaigns. But you were able to keep it going, nobody threw you in jail nor did the government shut the publication down by force.

Today, you have a radio show that doesn’t agree by any stretch with US policies, much less with Miami views. Nobody shuts your radio station down or throws you in jail.

ML: Yes, but when “Replica” was first published, where, by the way, I allowed all parties to express their point of view, from leftist to rightist articles, the most obstinate sectors in Cuban exile wanted me to editorially abide by their position.

My declining, and the publishing of an editorial where I denounced terrorism, resulted in my being threatened with bombs, not just at the magazine’s offices but also at stands where it was sold. It also served to have all of those working, promoting, or supporting the publication be personally threatened.

EML: Nevertheless, just a bit ago you said we shouldn’t judge Cuba’s reality based on mistakes made in the past, right? You said that Cuba has overcome many things of the past and must be given credit for that. But I say the same thing here. This country has also overcome, and rapidly, many of the ways of the past, and if you don’t believe it tell Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, that decades later someone with the same color skin as hers would be president of the country.

Currently there is not a single case of violence or explicit threats against people in this city who exercise their right of free expression, Mr. Lesnik. If you and I started a magazine now that didn’t agree with official government policy, nor with the extreme right of this city, no one would put a bomb… Correct me if I’m wrong.

ML: OK, I don’t know if they wouldn’t place a bomb because they’re afraid of the FBI. If they would use other methods. And terrorism isn’t only about setting off bombs. If the restaurant where we’re sitting now advertises in your and my magazine, and they get a telephone call accusing them of being traitors and communists, and the owner has to call our magazine and withdraw his ad because he’s afraid, that’s also terrorism.

EML: This is too subjective for me to understand. What is objective is that we could open that magazine. In Cuba, no. In Cuba it would cost us a prison sentence to fund and distribute a magazine against the interests of the government. The Penal Code includes explicit sanctions for those who distribute enemy propaganda.

ML: And then what about the blogs written from within Cuba against the government? Why has no one been imprisoned for that based on the same Penal Code?

EML: Very simple, because there’s a loophole in the law which, incidentally, will no doubt be filled very soon in some way. The blogs are on an ethereal platform, intangible, the internet. In addition, independent blogs are not “distributed”: they simply are. An author loads his post and users access or don’t access the site: there is no distribution. It’s as if I write a journal and leave it in the doorway of my house, and passersby come into my house and read the magazine there. Who can be charged?

Then, returning to the starting point, I find it incomprehensible to affirm that there is more tolerance there than here, when for me, for publishing a text that departed from the official posture regarding the case of Zapata and an interview the blogger Yoani Sanchez, I was notoriously expelled from my place of work, and they hung a sign on me automatically labeling me, “enemy.”

ML: Seen like that, it’s true, you’re right, but that’s not what we were talking about.

EML: We were talking about intolerance, Mr. Lesnik, which you said was worse here than in Cuba.

ML: What I said to you just now was that tolerance and freedom are in direct relation to the security of the State. I am free to express my points of view because in fact my comments have no repercussions with regards to changing the society in which I live.

EML: And then why, in Cuba, is there so much fear about articles that don’t share the official position. Isn’t the Cuban process supported by the masses, by the people? Then where does the fear come from?

ML: I’ll explain it to you: if I, for expressing my points of view, in a blog, a magazine, a newspaper, receive money from a foreign government, be it Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China, obviously the American state would not tolerate it.

EML: And you receive nothing for your column in Cubadebate?

ML: No man, no. I don’t even send them those articles. They take them from Radio Miami and post them there, for which I thank them, just like I would thank Channel 41 if they took my radio commentaries and introduced them in their programming. I would be very glad to give them the rights.

But I repeat: If I were paid for what I do by an enemy foreign government, the United States would not allow it.

Thus, when the U.S. government publicly sends $20 million to help, support and maintain the Cuban opposition, how can we think this freedom of expression of supposed independent journalists and bloggers is clean when we know they receive this “help.”

EML: Mr. Lesnik: I never received a single penny for writing my articles.

ML: Fine, but it follows that the Cuban government suspects through associations of ideas that everyone who publishes ideas of this kind is financed by the enemy.

EML: But this “suspicion” is absurd, Mr. Lesnik. There’s nothing else to call it.

And speaking of dissent, if the government doesn’t allow me within my own country to have a position contrary to theirs, and at the same time to survive, to keep my life, I have two options: 1. To desist from this contrary position, to submit, to use their own expression, or, 2. To accept economic help which in this case can only come from the exterior. It’s a trap, a dead-end that leads to no one being able to speak in opposition.

ML: Then for you this practice is justified, this buying of the dissidents.

EML: No, what I’m saying is that this is a consequence of a mechanism designed so that Cuban dissidents cannot exercise their political arguments. If a Cuban with a lot of money, within the Island, would like to finance the political activity of an opponent, as happens all over the world, or if at least the dissidents could engage in their activity but sustain themselves economically within Cuban society itself, I think this problem would not exist: the United States could keep its $20 million.

ML: But in the Revolution of the ’30s, and in the fight against Batista and Machado, and in the War of Independence in 1895, not one patriot received money from foreign governments.

EML: No, but Martí came here just to raise funds for the struggle.

ML: Among the people in exile. Not from the government.

EML: Fine, but today’s opponents cannot leave Cuba as Martí could.

ML: Boy, they receive it by other routes, today there are thousands of ways… They can get it from Western Union.

EML: And in your view would that be legal? Let’s see: if I was now a successful businessman from Miami without ties of any kind to the government, and as a Cuban I wanted to finance the political career of Oswaldo Payá, Dagoberto Valdés, Oscar Elías Biscet… then what?

ML: It has already been published that Mrs. Pollán and the Ladies in White receive money from a gentleman here with links to terrorism. And for this she hasn’t been imprisoned…

EML: You aren’t answering my question. If the American government eliminated these funds, and if independent institutions — which also exist — were those who sent money for the cause of these opponents, just like exiles here gave funds to Martí for this fight against the Spanish, would you consider this fine, and from your perspective should the Cuban government accept it?

ML: I don’t know if the Cuban government will take measures against individuals from there who receive money from individuals here. My answer to you is: This is valid. What is not valid is to receive money from a foreign government.

March 17 2011


More Than a Little Bit of Faith

I heard it said to a great man during a recent television interview: Asked about Cuba’s imminent future, the priest José Conrado, visiting Miami, responded that for him good news was approaching, hopes appearing on a complex horizon.

Suddenly, hearing his daring statement, I remembered something: I shared it with him 100%. I think that until that moment I hadn’t noticed precisely, but yes, I have a optimistic sense of good luck which lets me think of today’s Cuba — which I don’t like — with the tenderness of one who knows that soon he could begin to like it.

Said like that it might sound unintelligible. Ergo, it deserves explanation.

Perhaps the strongest pillar on which totalitarian regimes sustain themselves is immobility. Statism. Contemporary history offers us obvious testimonies: every time these centralized systems have tried to adapt themselves to new eras, modernizing through revitalizing perestroikas and glasnosts of survival, uncertainty has struck as the prelude to total collapse.

The reason, in my judgment, is primary: there is no way to mathematically calculate the impact of deep transformations in societies that have been, up to that moment, static. Let’s say that it’s a kind of “butterfly effect”: the think tanks know in a test tube sense what they would like to change — but, once outside it, events almost always are unpredictable and defy the keenest predictions.

Within this basic premise fits the question, for example: How will the political police fix relations beforehand with a man like Oscar Elías Biscet, made great by prison and once again free, once again battling in the streets of Lawton?

Or it could be: planning led to his liberation, until the moment they put an end to the burden that keeping him and dozens of prisoners of conscience inside Cuban prisons represented to international public opinion.

As a precautionary measure, like an astute political trick, they decided to debut a documentary series which “burned” undercover agents of State Security, whose purpose was — I can see it now — to prepare the tricky terrain discrediting an opposition which, inevitably, would strengthen itself with the release from prison of the dissident doctor and his companions in the cause who would not accept exile.

But now what? Oscar Elías Biscet has shown his usual position, his unwavering mood as a fearless man without restraints. His name has strengthened, it has grown as a national and international symbol… and now he has returned to the streets.

What will the establishment do this time? Will they put him in prison again when Biscet renews his public protests, his activism? Obviously not. At least, not for long. They would be dancing a political chachacha (little steps forward, little steps back) which isn’t even imaginable.

Strategic planning, the chess game of contention, is big to them this time.

The same applies to an even stronger reality: The layoffs forced by the updated economic model. Half a million put out on the street. Later, half a million more. The arduous big thinkers implementing the update of the economic model that will finally save the nation of hunger and destruction.

The question is: how to sustain social stability in a country where nearly 25 percent of the active working population are expected to be self-employed, without the existence of any mechanism that allows them to make a living?

Before leaving Cuba, a little over two months ago, I watched a reality: the amazing proliferation of snack vendors. But the mass layoffs still haven’t begun. To date it has started timidly, fearfully: It’s clear that it could not be completed before April as announced.  But despite that, it will happen.

And how is that hundreds of thousands snack sellers subsist, peacefully? The markets are depleted, the products needed to make refined edibles are sold at science fiction prices, the snack stands spread like a modern plague.

Will it be enough, one more time? The fervent slogans, the documentaries with foul-mouthed heroes and the petty informers, to generate social stability once an element unknown on the Island until now — unemployment — is introduced?

On the other hand, how can they sustain docility and the massive support of a people who, unlike the delusional who survived the crisis of the nineties, already know of the world outside, and of the internal dissidents thanks to technology and the internet? These are modern times, times when brainwashing is hampered by independent blogs, by resonant voices from the streets of insular Cuba itself.

What do we see on the horizon, then? Let’s say a rarefied scene. It is so difficult to analyze and understand the actions of a schizoid. A government throwing temper tantrums, illogical, a government that releases — unconditionally now — prisoners of conscience who weighed too heavily on them from above, and on the other hand reprimands, by way of the usual pawns, brave women who are not intimidated by stones and excessive vulgarity.

A government that at times unblocks sites and blogs which, until recently, were closed to Internet users from the island, and then intensifies and refines their methods in the digital battle.

The reality speaks for itself: a landscape lacking balance or stability. A country governed, in theory, by a military man who is terrified of speaking, and in practice by an old man who promises the “Five Heroes” — held in American prisons — will be released before December 1st, though no one knows what year he’s talking about.

So we cross our fingers with, at times, very little (but growing) faith, and confirm the wise words of Father José Conrado: “Yes, I too maintain that this is the time to put in energy and good thinking, and to call on honesty and courage inside and outside of Cuba, in support of a democratization that, in spite of stubborn satraps, seems to hover in the distance moving slowly, but real.”

March 14 2011

More Than a Little Bit of Faith

My Benevolent Amnesia

Sean Penn and Hugo Chavez

Seeing a newspaper photo of Sean Penn in Venezuela, once again, glamorously and fraternally shaking hands with Hugo Chavez managed to ruin my morning three days ago.

Of course the link between these two men, points of reference in their respective endeavors, wasn’t news to me: Penn is one of the most versatile and talented actors in Hollywood today; Chavez is the most rustic and shameful contemporary Latin America president. Both have enviable positions in their rankings.

But, there was something I wanted to forget. I would prefer to turn a blind eye to this reality: the Oscar winning Sean Penn, the same man who amazed me in Mystic River, Milk, and the tender I’m Sam, publicly and shamelessly flirting with the Venezuelan commander, as if he’s not one of those characters whom if you ran into, sometime, you’d prefer to run and hide.

But still, in this case, I say bitterly, I understand Sean Penn a bit. If you’re not sure what I said: I repeat, I understand him, but bitterly. Why? Because Commander Chavez, in addition to having ruined his country completely, and having established an almost unprecedented level of personal and institutional violence, collaborated with the philanthropic artist in his “Jenkins-Penn” organization to help the victims in Haiti.

The actor also declared unambiguously, of course, that the other considerable help for his foundation came from the U.S. Navy.

Would I have accepted money from a detestable government to save lives in a devastated country? Absolutely. I would have accepted it from Kim Jong Il himself, as long as I didn’t have to shake hands with him afterwards.

Let’s be clear, following the example of this event, we find a considerable number of artists, businessmen, athletes, and intellectuals whose unquestionable talents in certain areas don’t stop them from making fools of themselves in others. I think that when politics doesn’t go hand-in-hand with common sense, as illustrated, it’s best to shut your mouth and let it go.

How do we analyze, for example, the case of the Oscar Niemeyer, a true giant of universal architecture? That the designer of a city like Brasilia and of fascinating works such as the Funchal Casino and the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art, is also the father of words like these:

“Fidel has demonstrated a reaction against the decadent capitalist regime that represents only money and power.”

Surprising. I ask myself if this same man who, thanks to the market economy, to what is earned by notable talent only in capitalist societies, has managed to amass a multi-million dollar fortune, deserves it. What’s more, if this is the same artist whose construction projects are only possible in vigorous economies. Read: Capitalist ones.

The list of horrors is swelled, sadly, by not a few writers. From an imprecise number I select two Latin American writers as a sample: Mario Bendetti and Gabriel García Márquez.

The latter, despite having produced the most incredible novel written in Spanish from Don Quixote to today — One Hundred Years of Solitude — and being one of the most fascinating literary and journalistic minds of the region, has very dangerous friendships and frankly incomprehensible ideological projects; but for me that’s old news. And what’s more, his books, thanks to the capitalist literary market, have traveled the world in every modern language.

But I remember my naive astonishment when, in Barnes & Noble one day — where, by the way, thanks to a kind stranger there is already one fewer copy of Updike’s Terrorist — I notice there’s not a single book by Benedetti on the shelves. Always in beautiful editions by Punto de Lectura or Anagrama.

Yes: The passionate liberal Uruguayan, author of La Tregua and other memorable works, does not seem to wonder where the money from his books comes from and has actively dedicated himself to pointing to capitalism as the origin of all planetary ills.

A worse case is that of other young newcomers to stardom.

I recall, with somewhat immodest pride, that the first time I heard a song by Calle 13 I said to myself: “This is reggaeton, but of another calibre.”  I don’t seem to have been wrong in that diagnosis.

Because even today they don’t do reggaeton like its origins, but with something that for lack of a better name has been called “urban music” and these Puerto Ricans have offered authentic voices, taking into account the current Hispanic music scene.

But what’s with Calle 13? Because at times, between simply mouthing off and horrible poetry, they talk nonsense about an industry that has brought them 10 Grammy Awards, but not about the money it generates for them.

It’s true, who can doubt it, that they “give it to the gringos hard” — an actual phrase from their media hit Calma Pueblo — but then why do they accept with satisfaction the cheers and prizes awarded by the American Recording Academy?

Why allow none other than Sony, that capitalist music icon, to produce and sell their albums? This, in my language, has only one name and I apply it to this duo that I enjoy like few of their kind: Ideological hypocrisy.

Seeking to show some restraint in my judgments I want to distance myself, this time, from one of the remarks of René Pérez, leader of the duo, during his visit to Havana, “I come to this country because I am a free man and I don’t have to ask permission of anyone to travel where I like.” Really, dear René?

In Cuba we have an expression that describes this: “Speaking of the rope in the house of the hanged man.”

Would it be worthwhile to mention another illustrative example? I am tempted to mention “Diego de la Gente” — Maradona — the most marvelous and at the same time unbearable footballer from my beloved Argentina, land of great storytellers and of football that I follow with a passion that knows no bounds. I’m tempted, but I won’t give way to talking about Diego. He’s too much of a fraud to be worth more than a paragraph. Let him continue to enjoy his millionaire’s mansion, while showing a pair of tattoos, on an arm and a leg, that condemn him much more than his heinous vices.

So, I think that it would be a good idea if I subscribe to what one of Salinger’s characters says: “There are writers whom one, after reading them, would like to call on the phone.” I think there are also musicians who, after hearing their work, footballers who after watching their goals, and actors who, at the end of their films, we should do the favor of forgetting about until their next delivery, and act as if they do not exist outside of that, their natural environment.

Right now I don’t remember the last time I had news of Sean Penn.

March 8 2011


Pawns of What Empire? Pieces of What Puzzle?

It is, without a doubt, the news-of-the-day for Cuba. It has been news on the Island and off the Island.

The new revelation of the identities of Moises Rodriguez and Carlos Serpa Maceira, two State Security agents whom the Cuban government, until Saturday 26 February, infiltrated into opposition groups, is just another case, another grain of sand on the endless beach of similar stories that comprise the daily reality of my country.

Nevertheless, it shakes the ideas, thoughts, reactions, of all those who aren’t already completely undone by this fated and incandescent little island.

I believe that a comprehensive assessment of the material titled The Pawns of the Empire, aired in prime time on Cuban television on February 26, must go beyond skin-deep and quick analysis,  so I have broken it into five thematic segments essential to my understanding, for the sake of a deeper and more effective dissection.

1. Who is Telling Us the Story?

One of the primary aspects to fairly weigh the testimony of these two moles, to locate their words on one side or the other of our consciousness, is to clearly define who they were, from the beginning, these people who today are enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame.

We cannot fall into the psychological trap of associating them with the opposition, and then credit them for talking about it with great ownership. We have to remember something: when we hear their testimonies we are not seeing people who were once members of these movements, who distanced themselves and broke with the opposition because their moral precepts went against them.

That’s not the case. They were, at all times, agents who, from the very beginning, were enemies of those opponents, men who had one very clear agenda: take notes, look for weaknesses, deficiencies and imperfections as in any human endeavor, whatever they could find.

But it is vital to understand their statements not as if they formed these negative views from life experience. Moises Rodriguez (the “agent Vladimir”) and Carlos Serpa Maceira (the “agent Emilio”) knew what they would find among the dissidents, what they wanted to find, and nothing human or divine could prevent that from happening.

2. Absolutist Characterizations

According to Moisés Rodríguez, in all his years of links to the counterrevolution he had the pleasure of knowing practically all the dissidents. And he says, “I didn’t know a single one who was truly sincere.” He describes all of them as corrupt, servile, and a long list of other denigrating qualities.

And on this point, the thinking being, the rational man, must stop and look at that statement with suspicion. Why? Because absolutes are very good for campaigns, for thought manipulation, but are never accurate in an assessment.

Equally, I can’t say that all the defenders of the Cuban Revolution are assassins, censors, tyrants, among other things, because I know excellent people, incapable of doing harm to their peers, who approve the process, and the same reasoning is applicable to those who dissent. So it is when one wants to evaluate fairly, without murky intentions, or when one doesn’t have a pre-established agenda.

Mr. Moisés didn’t know even one, one dignified example, at least one pearl among so many swine? Then one of two things: either the gentleman didn’t, in fact, know all the dissidents, and he specialized — in some inconceivable way — in contacting the most perverse, or, more likely still: he has no interest in offering a true picture of these people.

His intention is to demonize, and for this it’s very simple — and easily detected by us — to generalize without any possible discrimination.

What happens is that, fortunately, we have not all been lobotomized by the system. And we know this art is denied by some who think with their own heads, a healthy exercise that allows us, for example, to admit that it’s true that within the Cuban dissidence there are many despicable people, but (and this is the $64,000 question): How does one accurately assess the role of the opposition given that it fights on massively unequal ground?

What would the Cuban opposition be without the constant infiltration of those agents, without the repression and persecution; if it were allowed to freely organize, speak in the same media that slanders it, or in its own media, and undertake political work legally as happens in most of the countries in the world?

I have my answer: It would be an opposition made up not only of the people with the biggest balls — women included — but of people with the greatest intellect. And I prefer, not intending to harm any friends, the endless number of artists, engineers, accountants, doctors, lawyers, journalists, who would give strength to a more solid and respectable opposition, if dissent in Cuba today was not the purview of lunatics, suicides and martyrs.

3. A Political Endorsement as a Passage to Freedom

One of the denunciations most dangerous to their cause, most contradictory, made by agents Emilio and Vladimir, is this: “Among many there was a desire to accumulate a record as someone politically persecuted, to be able to leave the country.” It also corroborates another of the interviewees: Captain Mariana (unnamed in the documentary).

This, all things considered, subtracts from the brilliance and dignity of the work of the opposition. Is the accusation a lie? It is not. I can testify to this: for too many supposed opponents, defenders of Human Rights in Cuba I have known, their objective is clearly not the democratization of their country, but the ability to flee from it by any means possible. In order to obtain a visa for the United States, they would challenge head-on the reproduction of storks or the Law of Gravity.

In fact, one of the strong points of this documentary in its effort to discredit, is the recording — a flagrant violation of privacy, common in those who can — of Marta Beatriz Roque speaking with Rene Gomez Manzano saying that, because in Pinar del Rio a certain assembly would not be held, then no one would be able to go from there to Miami. And as keeping my mouth shut about what I think is not a cultivated habit for me, I will say that there are few declarations by dissident figures that I find more abhorrent and deplorable than this.

If it’s about a genuine opponent, if Mrs. Marta Beatriz is not “burned” in the future as agent “Juanita,” she does little favor to the beautiful cause of Cuban freedom with her foolish speech and her unpresentable way of defending Cuba.

Nevertheless, let us turn the coin and look at the other side: What kind of country is this where people need to fabricate for themselves a dissident history — sometimes without even having a vocation for it — in order to leave?  Who denounces such facts? Their very own agents don’t realize the ridiculous reality of Cuba, where Cubans go to such extremes to escape a prison-like island.

An ironic conclusion for the Cuban oppressors: eliminate the impossibility of traveling freely from Cuba, and surely they will reduce the ranks of the internal enemy.

4. Radio Marti:  Sweet Cherry Pastry

One of the passages which generate the most interest, controversy, or entertainment, according to how you look at it, is the false denunciation that the infiltrated Carlos Serpa Maceira makes through Radio Marti, exposing the loose verification of information by that Miami-based radio station.

Now, I admit that carrying out serious and intelligent journalism consists of much more than reporting clandestine information, which is unable to be confirmed.  But it’s worth it to look at other angles of the show put on by “Agent Emilio” which was aired before surreptitious cameras.

First: it’s impossible, in the literal sense, that any radio station or media outlet in any part of the world can immediately confirm any denunciations coming from our country.  The fact that Cuba has squashed all possibilities of free-flowing information, the only options left are to either believe or not believe in those who give their testimonies.

In this particular case, it wasn’t a case of a random source giving a report: It was someone who had an 8-year record reporting about continuous and real arrests, real aggressions against the Ladies in White.  Believing in him was not something stupid or idiotic.

5. Finally: Why, and for what?

The underlying question behind this sweet 40 minute audiovisual display is, to my understanding, almost  obligatory in the effort to comprehend what has just been shown to us.  And it formulates like this:

What is the real objective behind Pawns of the Empire?

To demonstrate the existing ties between Cuban opposition organizations and important political names and structures based in the United States and Europe?  To demonstrate to the world, and to Cubans, that the most well-known dissidents within the island, whether it is the Ladies in White, Elizardo Sanchez, or Marta Beatriz Roque, receive financial assistance from the outside?  At this point, I think it makes more sense to make a documentary depicting, for example, that we humans are mortal, as opposed to this supposed premise.

Why? Well, because once the Cuban government adjusted its mechanism to only allow official politicians to take part in activism, it condemned those who dared go against them to death by hunger.

So then, what does an opposition leader live off of in Cuba?  Who offers them work, and who will contract with them?  Even more: politics, just like any other human activity, needs money in order to be carried out.  How do you exercise politics in Cuba when absolutely all the opportunities have been closed down so that financing would be considered illegal?

Then, these people with liberation vocations are only left with two options:  1) Acceptance, first to survive and later to engage in politics, with financing that can only come from the outside, and very well camouflaged, or 2) To give up individual freedom and succumb to the imposed laws.

Again, the initial question: What is the objective of Pawns of the Empire?

According to my judgment, it’s as clear as the water: to isolate the opposition from Cuban society, to demonize them publicly, without giving them a chance to respond.  And even more, and overall to remind Cubans that the State Security apparatus is one of the ones which will never have any layoffs, and also to remind the people that they better not think of themselves as free to express themselves and free to dissent.  Big Brother will always be paying close attention to record phone calls, to film the insides of their houses, to fabricate agents.  None of this is impeded by the legal system in the name of sacred individuality.

March 1 2011