Admiring the Leader
August 16, 2012
HAVANA TIMES — On Monday, August 13, the perennial leader of the Cuban
Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, celebrated his 86th birthday. Just the day
before, the 2012 London Olympics concluded.
One of the last members of the Cuban delegation to compete (the winner
of the bronze medal in wrestling), dedicated his victory to Fidel on the
eve of his birthday.
Over the years I have seen our journalists repeat the same question to
the medalists in international events: "To whom are you dedicating this
I've gotten to the point of wondering if this is a mandatory question,
or just a lack of imagination on the part of the journalists.
This also made me ask whether it's part of the athletes' training to
dedicate their medals to not only their mothers, husbands or wives, but
also to the commander-in-chief.
I'm not a great admirer of Fidel Castro, I doubt that his strengths
outweigh the many mistakes he committed and that we still suffer.
This feeling (my lack of admiration for him) sometimes gives me a deep
sense of guilt. I listen to people of previous generations and to young
people from other countries who feel indebted to him and I feel a
I experienced this on Monday, August 13, while reading the Granma
newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba. All of
page 8 was filled with views about Fidel Castro as expressed by Cubans
and foreigners who have known him.
They were more like anecdotes, with each aimed at showing us a virtue of
the leader. I couldn't help but to be moved by the story of track legend
Ana Fidelia Quirot, the "Storm of the Caribbean." El Comandante visited
her personally in the hospital immediately after she suffered a domestic
accident in the early '90s.
The leader was beside her, wearing one of those green gowns that doctors
have to wear in operating rooms.
That story was enough to make me love, more than admire, our eternal
leader. But I kept reading.
There was a brief account of Brigadier General Juan Escalona Reguera. On
one occasion, Fidel sent him to Angola to speak with General Leopoldo
Cintra Frias to convey to him the following message: "Tell him that if
winning the war in Angola means losing him, it's not worth winning. Tell
him that he needs to cease his madness, that he needs to withdraw from
the front line, that he needs to be careful."
This is when I lost it. So those who died in that war and those who
returned maimed weren't our own? They were people we could afford to
lose to win the war in Angola?
I always thought if there was some admirable quality in a military
commander, it was their courage to be out in front of their troops, on
the front line of combat, such as our independence leaders Antonio Maceo
and Maximo Gomez, and like our national hero Jose Marti at Dos Rios,
even though Marti wasn't a soldier.
Does it now turn out that there were valuable lives and disposable lives
in the war in Angola? Who determines the value of one life over another?
My brother was sent to Angola when he was 18, during his military
service. Wasn't his life valuable? What was my brother in Angola: cannon
fodder in a faraway war attempting to show Cuban internationalism to the
outside world? He was fortunate to come back in one piece. He didn't
experience any glorious death.
I guess I missed something. Where was the part of the story about why I
should admire the El Comandante?