Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fidel's Words Continue to Echo... Bitterly

Yoani Sanchez Award-Winning Cuban Blogger
Posted: October 22, 2010 01:17 PM

Fidel's Words Continue to Echo... Bitterly

Rarely does a person interviewed complain that a journalist has
interpreted their statements to the letter; more frequently the opposite
occurs, when, whether from negligence or malicious intent, a clear
statement is ignored, mutilated or misinterpreted. So even though Fidel
Castro has accustomed us to think of him as different from common
mortals, we were surprised when he said he meant the exact opposite of
what he said when he told Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic magazine
that, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

As if they were mutually exclusive arguments incapable of sharing space
in the same brain, the once great rhetorician rejects the journalist's
interpretation of his words, arguing that, "My idea, as the whole world
knows, is that the capitalist system doesn't work for the United States,
nor for the world (...) how could such a system serve for a socialist
country like Cuba?" Those of us who read Goldberg's report of the
interview, and then heard the verbal juggling from the Maximum Leader as
he spoke at the great hall of the University, were left very confused.

If someone wants to get an idea of the uncertainty such declarations
have generated in Cuba, imagine for a moment that after 50 years of
marriage, a husband learns that his wife has told her best friend that
their marriage doesn't work. When asked to explain her indiscreet
comments she responds, "What I think is that the marriage of the couple
across the street doesn't work... Who could possibly think that I'd now
like to marry my neighbor's husband?"

I don't know who is best able to analyze this issue. A philosopher to
dismantle its sophistry? A linguist to better organize the words? Or a
psychotherapist to explore the Freudian slip hidden behind the
declarations of el Comanadante. For those of us who were born and came
of age under the social experiment he tried to shape in his image and
likeness, to hear such self-criticism leaves a bitter taste that feels
very much like betrayal.

I recall that when I first heard his words I wrote a little message and
immediately published it on my Twitter account: "Fidel Castro joins the
opposition." A friend who read my brief opinion called me urgently at
home to confess that, "If he has joined the dissidence, then I'm moving
over to the government." We Cubans have spent the past week living with
jokes of this type, along with expressions of surprise, not to mention
quite corrosive opinions about the mental health of the persistent
orator. Even the worry about the economic problems, and the imminent
layoffs of nearly 25 percent of the country's workforce, fade in
importance. No one has been able to remain indifferent to such a
monumental slip of the tongue.

Since he dropped his official responsibilities because of ill health,
Fidel Castro has barely spoken of our country and its problems. He
frequently publishes Reflections on environmental matters and the threat
of nuclear war. Now, since his recent "resurrection" he again appears in
public wielding the microphone, his favorite instrument of the last half
century. In the four years he has been out of power, he hasn't addressed
a single word to the way his brother Raul has performed for the country;
and now, this ambiguous allusion, referring to the functionality of the
Cuban model, is the first we have heard, after so much time avoiding the

Nowhere in the interview did Goldberg interpret his words to mean that
Fidel Castro is recommending American capitalism for Cuba; rather he
simply respectfully transcribed the controversial phrase which the
ex-president himself acknowledges having said, "without bitterness or
concern." And where do these enigmatic four words come from? Could it be
that the bitterness and concern within the heart of the Maximum Leader
are captured in that idea -- which he assures us he wanted to express --
that capitalism no longer works for anyone?

The bitterness is felt today: by the families of the internationalist
who died trying to bring the Cuban model to so many countries in the
world; by those who renounced the pleasures of youth, sacrificing the
best years of their lives to make the model work; by the sincere members
of the Party, expelled from the organization for much less severe
criticisms; by those who lost their jobs for an inappropriate comment;
by those who ended up behind bars for opposing the model; in short, by
those who had the insight to see that things were no turning out as
expected, who said so in good faith, and who received, in return, only
disproportionate punishment. They all have the right to feel frustrated
and above all fooled by the irresponsible man who assumed the post of
wise clairvoyant marching in the vanguard along a path that led nowhere,
and who now fears that alternative paths lead to dead ends or, even
worse, back to the starting point of -- oh! horror! -- the capitalist past.

The concern that all of us who inhabit this Island share is that we will
find we are a nation bereft; a nation where the programs, and the
euphemisms of "to perfect" or "to actualize" the system, cannot explain
clearly where we are going, although everyone knows by heart the
meticulous description of the Utopia that we could never reach.

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